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Tracy McBeth is a teacher at Belfast Royal Academy. Tracy and BRA have been involved with Habitat through our Change Makers programme for a number of years. The programme encourages young people to become active citizens, both locally and globally. Read her Advent reflection below:

The brief mini-bus journey from Belfast Royal Academy to the new Crumlin Road ReStore on a crisp Autumnal morning this year was much shorter in distance than previous journeys taken to various Habitat projects in Banbridge, Lisburn or even South and East Belfast. North Belfast’s murals and memorials, its barbed wire and ‘peace’ walls are always an unsettling reminder of our city’s tumultuous past and a stark vision of its precarious present; however, as the excited and expectant chatter of my charges escalates in the back of the bus and we arrive at the unfinished but already bustling retail park, I can’t help but feel hopeful.

The cavernous expanse of the warehouse space which will be painted by our school group of Changemakers is already filling-up with donated items, piled about, ready to be rehomed. The local area, with the highest instances of suicide and poverty in the city will benefit immeasurably from this hub of volunteering opportunities, never mind the cheap DIY equipment and furniture to improve homes. The area is a new home to increasing numbers of immigrant and displaced families who will undoubtedly avail of Habitat’s help and support.As we take the obligatory post-project photo, my pupils are buzzing with the sense of achievement that is only produced through generous acts of goodwill and hard physical labour. The superstore adjacent is already bedecked with Christmas decorations. Our journey back to school and the upcoming Advent season is filled with hope. Hope for a better future for our city, for North Belfast and the world at a time of uncertainty and fear for so many. And so, with Advent, the anticipation of the store’s opening brings hope.


Dear Lord of hope; thank you for the message of hope at Christmas through the birth of Jesus. In a world of uncertainty; we are thankful we can rest in the hope of the One who knows all things; who holds us in His care. Pray for the preparations for ReStore Belfast; may many customers, volunteers and the local community benefit from the work of ReStore in their community. Amen

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