Already we are seeing the fruits of our work through innovative activities undertaken by participants on their own enterprise, as a direct result of their working together on the "Messines Experience" programme.
As the organization moves forward and continues to grow, so too does the "Messines Experience" programme. All schools (and adult) programmes are required to complete an action plan which describes further action to be carried out by the group when they return home. Ideally, this will ensure the links made between schools and individual pupils are not simply forgotten about following the programme. Undoubtedly, the old walls of bigotry and mistrust are being torn down and positive relationships are being built in their place. The benefits of the Schools Links Project are obvious and enormously significant.
"Messines" in Action
Since 2009, the International School for Peace Studies (I.S.P.S) has organized a Commemoration Parade on 7th June to mark the joint sacrifices of people throughout our island in the First World War, commemorating particularily their joint sacrfice on 7th June 1917 at the battle of Messines. This parade has taken place in Londonderry/Derry every year, while an additional parade was carried out in Coleraine in 2011.
The short parade culminates at the Cenotaph, where young people from local schools, who have participated in the programme, perform various pieces in memory of "The Fallen". Over the years, several have felt confident enough to stand at the Cenotaph and share their "Messines Experience" with others, in terms of how they felt while they were overseas, and also how it has impacted on their lives when they return home to their own schools and local communities.
To witness how pupils have been impacted as a result of the programme demonstrates the programme's effectiveness. Once pupils return home they simply don't forget what they have learnt, they want to share with others the story of brotherhood which men experienced in the horrors of the First World War.
While Friday 11th November 2008 saw participants from our first Schools Links Programme (pupils from St. Cecilia's, Lisneal College and Crana College from Derry/Londonderry and Buncrana) present a joint Remembrance Day assembly, described by one Headmaster as, "one of the most moving and effective school assembly's I have ever been to in almost 40 years in the teaching profession".
In fact the assembly was the first of it's kind to ever be held in St. Cecilia's, a true indication of how strongly pupils felt following the programme of the need to remember every solider from the Island of Ireland, whether they were Catholic or Protestant.
In future these pupils will work together as peer educators on group initiatives that foster innovation among young people, allowing them to express and implement ideas for projects which help to develop and improve their local communities.