Celebrating support for rural community

From left: Oliver McMullan MLA, James McKay NACN, William Irwin MLA, Orla Black NACN, Aidan Smyth DARD, Breige Conway and Sandy Wilson NACN who attended a gala celebration in the Long Gallery at Stormont. INLT 09-654-CON
From left: Oliver McMullan MLA, James McKay NACN, William Irwin MLA, Orla Black NACN, Aidan Smyth DARD, Breige Conway and Sandy Wilson NACN who attended a gala celebration in the Long Gallery at Stormont. INLT 09-654-CON

A celebration event for local support networks funded through DARD was held in the Long Gallery at Stormont recently.

North Antrim Community Network was one of seven which received £3.5 million through DARD’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Programme,

The event was organised to showcase the groups’ achievements.

It was attended by MLAs, as well as representatives from organisations such as DARD, Public Health Agency, and the Charity Commission NI. The event focused on celebrating the success of the networks and on how the support service has helped empower over 12,000 rural people, helped deliver over 700 free training sessions and community events, addressing issues such as village development planning workshops; social enterprise support; charity registration; public relations training; best practice visits; funding fairs; health and well-being; first aid; guidance on submitting funding applications; lobbying workshops and much more.

The support service has led to improved village services and access to funding, in particular lottery funds and the Rural Development Programme, support to develop partnerships and improved access to government fficials, councils and other bodies.

The local support networks offer an independent service and through their work have provided many new programmes and services. These include mental health and suicide prevention, health and well-being, maximising access in rural areas (MARA) and physical activity.

The networks now have over 25 years’ experience in delivering support services to communities.

Their success over the last three years is believed to be indicative of how DARD’s Tackling Poverty and Social Isolation programme is making a difference.

Through the delivery of the Rural Community Development Support Service, the networks have been able to provide the tools that allow rural communities to develop stronger relationships with one another, to develop skills to address community needs, and access funds and support that development for the benefit of rural Northern Ireland.

For further information, or to find out how to get in touch with your local Rural Support Network, contact Wendy Kerr, South Antrim Community Network on 028 9447 8645 or 07732 820708.