The work being done with Holy Cross and Wheatfield by PPI-NI constantly challenges the historic divides of Ardoyne and Upper Ardoyne
This week, PPI – NI begins the first session of twinning program between Holy Cross and Wheatfield Primary Schools. While all twelve schools engaged in our twinning program this year come from areas in need, the Holy Cross/Wheatfield twinning holds a special significance.
Sectarian rioting has plagued North Belfast for generations
In the summer of 2001, the Ardoyne and Upper Ardoyne communities of North Belfast were at a standstill over a stretch of road no more than 300 yards. This is the Ardoyne Road, an interface area in North Belfast that crosses from the Catholic nieghborhood of Ardoyne into the Protestant neighborhood of Upper Ardoyne. Both Holy Cross and Wheatfield are situated in the center of the area that was under dispute.
There were nightly riots, sparked by a dispute over paths to school and suspected acts of sectarian violence. Students at both schools still had to attend classes each day, even while violence at night gave a glimpse into the dark days of the Troubles. Nearly ten years later, the violence has settled but tensions still run rampant.
PPI-NI first began its work with the schools in 2007, with a one day basketball session. Then, even bringing these schools together for one day was accomplishment enough to earn the two men at the heart of the action ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award, given to individuals whose work transcends sports. Now, nearly three years later, Holy Cross and Wheatfield are fully engaging in our eight week twinning program, and for the first time this semester, visiting each others schools.
PPI-NI's work with Holy Cross and Wheatfield comes from years of slowly building confidence and comfort.
PeacePlayers International Fellow Ellen Cosgrove will be leading this Spring’s twinning and is excited for the next 8 weeks. “Its inspiring to see the progress of both these schools and communities. While there are plenty of obstacles, the attitudes of both the students and teachers in each school have brought Holy Cross and Wheatfield to a place most said they would never be.”
Over the next eight weeks of the twinning, the PPI-NI team will be working to keep that progress going.