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A group in Ballymoney is improving health and well-being for older people, thanks to National Lottery funding

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COAST (Causeway Older Active Strategic Team) recently received £444,208 of funding from Big Lottery Fund to support older people living in the Causeway Coast and Glens area who are vulnerable or isolated. This new four year project supports Good Morning Services and helps older people connect with other activities to get them out and about again.

Lillian Whelan, 74, who is originally from Belfast and now lives in Ballycastle, has found services like these invaluable.

“I fell in love with Ballycastle the first time I came to Corrymeela here in the 1980s for a cross-community peace event during the Troubles. That’s when I decided that I wanted to live there,” she recalls.

In 1986 she and her husband bought a house in the town but couldn’t convince their teenage children to move so the plan was that the couple would retire there. For years Lillian lived on that dream.

“Then one day just three months before we were set to retire my husband decided he didn’t want to move,” says Lillian whose life changed forever with that decision.

“Even though I was about to hit my 70th birthday I said I’d go anyway. No-one believed me but I stuck to my word and moved to Ballycastle for a new life.”

But although Lillian and her husband remain friends and she loves life in the seaside town, the change was enormous especially for someone like her in poor health. But with good neighbours and family to support her she made the most of it.

However, just as she was trying to make the huge adjustment Lillian’s son died suddenly of a heart attack.

“I got very down but I still went to my mass every day, though if there was a funeral on I’d have to leave and go outside for a cry,” says Lillian, whose health also deteriorated.

“That’s when they organised for the wee community bus to lift me each morning for mass and as I got to know the other people on the bus they became like an extended family to me.”

Around the same time Lillian’s next door neighbour Brenda Boyle got a job with Good Morning Ballycastle, which is managed by Ballycastle Church Action and funded through the National Lottery, and asked her if she would like to get involved.

Good Morning Ballycastle volunteers phone a list of vulnerable people every morning just to ensure they’re well; if they don’t get an answer they call at the house to make sure there’s no emergency.

COAST’s new project will continue to fund this service with the grant from Big Lottery Fund.

For Lillian those morning calls have made all the difference.

“I just love that wee call in the morning because it reminds me people care. It’s been a lifeline – that and Lola,” says Lillian whose granddaughter gave her the puppy called Lola a year after her dad, Lillian’s son, died.

“That wee dog and Good Morning Ballycastle have turned my life around. There’s nothing like a dog to get people talking to you and now everyone knows Lola,” laughs Lillian.

Through Good Morning Ballycastle Lillian also got involved in the Over-55s and a lunch club too.

“Getting out and about again has given me back my confidence. Before I got involved with Good Morning Ballycastle my life was very dismal. I loved Ballycastle but within myself I was very sad. I just can’t explain the richness the project has brought to my life.”

Julie Harrison, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “I am delighted to announce this grant under the People and Communities programme and I want to say thanks to all the National Lottery players who have helped make this possible.
“We want to fund great projects that work with local people, build on a community’s strengths, and are well connected to other services and activities in the community. We are looking forward to seeing the positive impact these projects will make to people and communities across Northern Ireland.”
The People and Communities programme offers grants of between £30,000 and £500,000 for two to five year projects. More information can be found on our website www.biglotteryfund.org.uk or ring our enquiries line on 028 90 551 455.

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