ANYONE from Fermanagh who took part in the Children’s Friendship Project for Northern Ireland (CFPNI) programme is invited to a special reunion in Belfast next month.
Marking 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement and the Omagh bombing, and celebrating the 21 years of the peace-building programme that saw Catholic and Protestant teenagers heading off the the US to spend a summer with a host family, the reunion on October 7th is aimed at reconnecting the thousands who took part over the years.
The programme, which ran from 1987 and 2007, had a strong local influence, with many Fermanagh teenagers taking part and Enniskillen woman Lilah Graham acting as the principal coordinator for NI for much of its duration.
Lilah told the Herald the CFPNI had been richly rewarding for all who had taken part and, with previous reunions held in Fermanagh over the years, and many of those who had taken in part had stayed connected.
“They kept in touch, there are still ones keeping in touch,” she said, recalling a wonderful reunion night in the Fort Lodge many moons ago. “I was actually at some of their weddings.”
She added some had also kept in touch with their host families in the States, and had even returned to visit them.
Lilah, who has donated hours worth of video she filmed from the programme over the years to Enniskillen Library where it can be viewed now by anyone, said as many of the participants had grown up, they had come to appreciate the experience of spending six weeks in the US as a young person all the more.
“It was such a rewarding time for all involved,” she added. “There were several reunions, which were greatly attended and enjoyed by both the teenagers and their families.
“It’s wonderful, after so many years, to have this opportunity for another reunion and to celebrate the success of the programme.”
Inevitably, there are also some who have lost touch over the years, and the US successor of the programme – Creating Friendships for Peace (CFP) – is hosting the runion in an effort to locate the 2,000-plus participants to re-establish relationships.
The reunion will be held at Ulster University Atrium in Belfast on Saturday, October 7th from 2-4pm. Former mayor of Omagh and CFP board member, John McKinney OBE, will open the event.
To register for the reunion visit friendships4peace.org/cfpni-alumni. Anyone with any questions can email MeibhM@friendships4peace.org.
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