Rio Ferdinand Foundation and International Fund for Ireland Launch New Cross-border Project

L-R: Young participants from Derry~Londonderry and Donegal came together for the launch of the ‘Beyond the Ball’ Project – a cross-border initiative as part of a collaboration between the Rio Ferdinand Foundation (RFF) and International Fund for Ireland (IFI). Pictured alongside the young people are Aimee Fitzpatrick, (RFF), Stevie Mallett, North West Youth Services, Paddy Harte, Chairperson of IFI, Catherine Ryan, Programme Manager, IFI and Sean Thorton and Dan Gorman from RFF.

Project aimed at supporting young people across Derry~Londonderry and Donegal

The Rio Ferdinand Foundation launched its ‘Beyond The Ball’ project, a significant partnership with the International Fund for Ireland, with a tournament and networking event hosted at Séan Dolans GAC, with our local network partners at Northwest Youth Services.

Building on the successes of the Beyond The Ball pilot programme in Leitrim and Fermanagh this tournament is the first step in a series of events and year round activity and will encompass the project becoming operational on a cross border basis in Donegal, who will have teams represented at the event.

The ‘Beyond The Ball’ project will use football as a pathway to bring young people together from across-the-border counties to build relationships, build their leadership skills, undertake training and accreditation, and deliver joint projects to address issues that impact themselves and their communities. 

The project will also give young people a voice with policymakers and stakeholders from sports, housing, education, and community safety to help shape future planning.

Beyond The Ball operates on a cross border basis in Derry/Londonderry, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Belfast, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Louth – and young people from those counties have come together at Sean Dolans GAC to play in a football tournament followed by a networking event at St Mary’s Youth Centre, Creggan.

Rio Ferdinand said:

“The Beyond The Ball project and our partnership with the International Fund for Ireland is an essential development for my Foundation in delivering our work to young people on the island of Ireland. In the current climate, young people need support, training, and skills development to build a strong future in uncertain times. 

“We also know that young people have a huge amount of talent, aspirations and opinions, and this project will give them a platform to express that in a positive way to influence their futures. This launch is part of an ongoing activity programme. I am pleased we are working with Northwest Youth Services to ensure our work is rooted within the local community and can reflect that local context.”

Sean Thornton, Beyond The Ball project co-ordinator, said:

 “This cross-border youth-driven project provides a valuable platform for young people to forge new connections with their peers from the border region and addresses the critical need for programs in areas facing economic hardship and hard to reach rural communities in Donegal.

“The project offers hope for the young people in the area, from cross community backgrounds providing them opportunities to refine their social skills, earn valuable qualifications, and enhance their educational journeys. It acts as a steppingstone for these young people, guiding them toward sustainable employment prospects, and making a positive impact on their lives and the wider community.”

Paddy Harte, Chair of the International Fund for Ireland, added,

The IFI’s Communities in Partnership Programme, which funds this collaboration with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation focuses on developing lasting relationships on a cross-border basis between communities and young people resulting in positive change for all mutual benefit.

“Local communities across NI and the southern border counties are dealing with the challenging backdrop of political uncertainty, raised community tensions and the rising cost-of-living, all of which are out of their control. It is vital that they are given the support they need to allow them to grow and prosper in spite of these obstacles.

“Creating opportunities for young people from border communities to come together, learn new skills and develop lasting friendships is a vital part of this project and offers opportunities that may not otherwise be available to so many young people.”