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Cross-border, Cross-Community Projects Forging Ahead Despite Covid

09 October 2020
PEACE IV funded projects from across the Derry City and Strabane District Council area and their neighbouring Donegal counterparts, were praised for their resilience and creativity in an online conference this week.
The ‘Forward Thinking’ conference, organised by Council’s PEACE IV Team, aimed to encourage and thank community workers for keeping going in the delivery of their EU funded reconciliation based projects.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Brian Tierney said: “‘Our community and voluntary sector is made up of some of the most hard-working, creative and determined people I know. ‘Your 'forward thinking' in adjusting your PEACE IV projects to successfully deliver in these difficult times, is about much more than just completing a project. In your programming, you are helping the mental health and wellbeing of your participants, in spending your project budgets you are helping a hard hit local economy. Collectively you are keeping hope going forward.”
In the Derry City and Strabane Council area, PEACE IV funding has distributed £6.7 million across 65 local projects. Over 6,300 people been involved in a sustained way, interacting with people, communities and issues which were often new to them. The PEACE IV Programme is supported by the European Union, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland. 
Sue Divin, Programme Manager for PEACE IV with Council said: “Given that the programme is focused on cross-community contact between participants and cross-border working, adjusting to Covid restrictions hasn’t been easy.
“Pre-Covid, most of our projects were expected to wrap up by December 2020. Whilst some of our projects were finished or close to finishing, around 40 had to adjust their delivery mid-flow and think laterally about how to continue benefitting local people. It required a huge mind shift, contractual changes and working closely with our funder, the Special EU Programmes Body. I’m delighted that our conference has helped people celebrate their achievements and think through remaining challenges together.’
The conference heard how projects have adapted not only to zoom conferencing and workshops but also digital productions, virtual tours, outdoor socially distanced activities from wildflower meadow planting to paddle-boarding and hiking, podcasting, online publications and delivering activity packs to participants to engage in group workshops virtually.
In group breakout rooms, community workers considered the challenges and opportunities they’ve face so far working under Covid and approaches to successful completion of their projects before the next phase of EU funding, PEACE Plus, arrives. Presentations from The Junction, The Playhouse, The Nerve Centre and Council’s Heritage and Museum Service, highlighted good relations materials accessible online.
Sue added: “Unfortunately, there won’t be a golden Covid-free era at the end of this programme where projects can complete the original activities planned. At this point it’s pretty clear the entire remaining programme will be delivered under some kind of restrictions. We’re just delighted that with team spirit and mutual encouragement we’re sticking to that Covid mantra of we’re all in this together – and together, we’ll complete the delivery of our PEACE IV Programme and be in a strong position for future PEACE Plus funding.’