“We have more in common than keeps us apart!”
This was just one of the heartfelt statements emerging from an Evening of Reflection for the participants in the ‘Sharing Your Community Space Programme’.
The unique programme is part of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s €4.3m grant from the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, and will help deliver the Council’s Local Authority Action Plan.
Over 100 members of the 34 local community organisations that are participating in the programme came together in the picturesque setting of Portstewart Golf Club to reflect on their journey through the programme so far.
‘Sharing Your Community Space’ has brought together local organisations that operate community facilities in the Borough to explore the idea of shared space and how our local community facilities can be welcoming and shared for everyone.
Participants have just finished a series of dialogue sessions facilitated by the Junction -Community Relations and Peace Building Initiative. Maureen Hetherington, Craig Barr and Seamus Farrell delivered an insightful but challenging programme which saw 4 representatives from each of the 34 groups come together in clusters in Ballymoney, Coleraine, Limavady and Garvagh.
All shapes and sizes of community facilities have been represented in the programme, from large community centres to small community houses, Orange Halls, Gaelic Clubs, old buildings and new.
The overwhelming common thread coming out of the sessions was the value that community and voluntary sector organisations contribute to the Borough. The issue of recruiting and keeping volunteers as well as sustainability was also high on the agenda.
One participant wrote “All the groups experience the same problems and issues. It was good to hear how they are addressed differently.” The findings of a social experiment carried out by the consultants was revealed on the night, and this demonstrated how local groups contribute a staggering £6 million in voluntary effort in our local communities.
The focus on the next phase of the project will be to continue to nurture the relationships that have been built and to support the groups to take a cohesive approach to delivering shared activities and services in their community buildings through a series of workshops and activities. The participating groups will ultimately avail of up to £20,000 of capital investment in order to increase the shared use of their community facilities.