Earlier this month, 70 young people graduated on the Loughs Agency’s ‘Foyle Ambassador’ Programme. The programme was supported through funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Ireland, in partnership with Cooperation Ireland.
The aim of the Foyle Ambassadors programme is to discover the social, economic and environmental importance of the River Foyle, from source to sea, while at the same time providing young people with opportunities to engage and build relationships across the city, region and political divide. This was done through a range of adventure activities such as boating, surfing and canoeing; and environmental projects such as cleans ups and personal development sessions.
Allan Bogle, Community Engagement Officer at Loughs Agency said ‘since Easter we have ran 5 programmes and these 70 young people have truly became ambassadors of the Foyle recognising its importance as a natural resource. Ambassadors not only built lasting connections with the river they also developed lasting friendships with each other. The experiences they have gained will provide them with skills for life through fun, friendship and adventure.’
Sharon McMahon, Designated Officer of Loughs Agency said ‘The Foyle Ambassadors programme encourages young people to get involved in the conservation and protection of the natural environment, and as the decision makers of the future and future custodians of the natural environment, it is extremely important that they understand the issues effecting this valuable resource today. The programme encourages young people to look after their communities, their relationships with their fellow citizens and the natural environment. It provides opportunities for them to enjoy and understand the recreational facility that the great outdoors provides, so that future generations may also enjoy it. And just maybe, due to the intervention of young people such as the Foyle Ambassadors, we can have a meaningful impact on this wonderful resource to help make it better, more resilient and sustainable for generations to come.’
Since 2014, nearly 200 young people between the ages of 13 and 17, have participated in this programme and become Foyle Ambassadors. Loughs Agency are keen to continue delivering this programme in the Foyle area and also in Carlingford and grow the Ambassador alumni further.
Peter Sheridan, Chief Executive of Co-Operation Ireland said ‘Co-operation Ireland is delighted to have been a partner in the Foyle Ambassador programme now in its 5th year. Too often Lough Foyle is associated with the sadness of people taking their own lives or with the river environment being used for drug dealing or other criminality but today we now have almost 200 young people who see the lough as a place to explore its wildlife and the opportunity it provides for recreation and conservation.
“I want to pay tribute to the young people who graduated on this year’s programme. We hope that they and the many young people who take part in future programmes will see Lough Foyle as a resource that can bring economic benefits and many environmental and recreational opportunities. Lough Foyle is a place to be proud of.’
During the graduation ceremony the Marion Gent presented the Philip Gent Memorial Trophy to Ambassador Dylan Sharkey. Allan Bogle, Community Engagement Officer at Loughs Agency said Dylan showed great enthusiasm during his time on the programme quickly and naturally becoming a team member and leading the team on occasions. He mucked in without hesitation, embraced all the tasks and challenges and had excellent attendance. Through the programme he presented himself as a genuine, considerate and kind person.
Foyle Ambassadors programme has the potential to reach many more young people throughout the Foyle and Carlingford areas. If you are interested in the programme, please register your interest via email to firstname.lastname@example.org