Peace Via Virtual Coffee Morning.

It has been a tough journey for many, a steep learning curve for others, the opportunity to grow and learn for a few, whilst some are focused on empowering both themselves and others to become the beacons of light after this Pandemic is over.

Discussing the pathway ahead on a clement Tuesday morning from the garden shed may not seem breath taking for many, yet breath taking is nothing short of how I can describe it.

Building that next layer of leadership into our society will come from many areas, both existing and more notably those who have been disengaged from active community life for a variety of reasons.

Listening to a group of young women from across Newry, Mourne & Down on an SEUPB funded Peace IV programme , who had never met before this all this began in September 2020, really inspired me to think about how do we, galvanise, support, mentor and continue a journey with those who have great vision and foresight after funded programmes of this nature have long finished, without losing that passion and hunger to make a difference.

How do we move around the hurdles such as time commitments, family life, bringing up children as well as self-doubt, lack of confidence, worrying about what others might say, the constant drone of ‘your not good enough’ from that negative inner voice?

Community work, managing community groups, networking and the role of leadership at a local level is thwart with all of the difficulties laid out above.

‘And’ whilst we do not have all the answers, I am convinced that this pandemic and our new ways of coming together has provided a ‘subtle’ but timely opportunity for many to get involved in community work and peace building.

Listening to people such as Patricia, Julie, Karen and many others across the air waves, talk passionately about how young women living in a rural community can be and will be the visionary leaders of the future, forced me to reflect on how we shut people out of community and peace building due to access, structure and rigidity.

Those who are dedicated to their community groups and our local people have and will continue to form the backbone of how we shape our future and importantly how peace and reconciliation continues to weave into the fabric of society from all sides.

‘But’ new leaders and those who have been disengaged, have a big future to play in helping to shape our vision for society. New technologies, communications and online platforms are allowing many people to break the barriers that come with the more traditional structures associated with community development and peace building.

Importantly, we do need to understand how we can best use technology and newer methods of involvement to ensure that we break the barriers associated with more traditional models.

Traditional community structures will no doubt continue to lead the way but loose collectives and networks, working outside the structures of constituted groups and clearly defined leadership, will be critical to future peace building and reconciliation.

Our local society need good people who have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge, vision and wisdom…… but we must continue to provide innovative and creative ways for these people to feed into the process to create a positive society for all.

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