The Circle of Change is a unique group of people from all walks of life from around Belfast who come together for 6 months to talk and learn from each other about the root causes of issues affecting our communities.
As a team, we want to see communities flourish despite the challenges we face. We harness our skills, resources and networks to fund a pioneering community initiative which is helping to bring change for the better in Northern Ireland. Help us to bring change by donating here.
The first Circle of Change ran from September 2018 to March 2019 and you can read about it here and in the Irish News.
It was an amazing success. We raised over £50,000 and were able to fund 6 excellent projects which are pioneering new ways to unlock potential in people from low-income backgrounds, tackle mental health issues, and support minority groups. Together the 18 members of ‘Circle of Change’ raised a staggering £50k. The participants choose six excellent projects which are pioneering new ways to unlock potential in people from low-income backgrounds, tackle mental health issues, and support minority groups. The six local groups funded where:
Educational Shakespeare Company (ESC)
Jigsaw Community Counselling Centre
Our Social Space
Their after school club titled ‘Bradbury Hub’ creates a safe space for children after school to meet and continue with their studies in a supportive environment. The funding was used to cover the costs of a project coordinator and two tutors who were appointed in July, since then they have also recruited four teachers and a number of volunteers.
The club takes place at Shaftesbury, an area right in the heart of two communities that would particularly benefit from the project, providing an opportunity for children of these two communities to come together, an activity rarely heard of. They have the support of a tutor who has knowledge and experience to guide them through their homework providing extra support where needed.
The club runs in line with the academic year and in September a full class of 28 children attended with much buzz. English, Maths and Science classes ran for children age 8 – 14 years old. Additionally, IT Coding and Music classes for ages 8 – 18 years, all classes are free to the students providing additional opportunities to learn and improve their studies with experienced tutors.
The need for this has been truly highlighted in the community through fully subscribed classes, Monday to Friday. The Bradbury Hub are determined to continually improve their services within the community extending their services and number of spaces available.
Angela Ifonlaja, Project Coordinator said “We are ever grateful for the funding provided by Circle of Change, without which, we could not have got up and running. Please extend our appreciation to each member – Thank you.”
View their website here.
Educational Shakespeare Company (ESC)
ESC have a strong focus on cross-community work exploring conflict resolution through storytelling and film. During the summer The Educational Shakespeare Company (ESC) worked with Corrymeela Community, a peace and reconciliation organisation in Ballycastle. Through the partnership they interviewed and recruited participants for a LGBT project – A question of belonging.
A Question of Belonging shares LGBT stories of faith from Northern Ireland. A series of six interviews and a short trailer film was produced to support the inclusion of LGBT people in places of faith. This was showcased at an event in partnership with Spectrum LGBT fellowship which took place on Tuesday 17th Sept in the Agape Centre, as part of Community Relations Council’s Good Relations Week.
This is an educational resource which will be used to give a voice and ideally a face to LGBT people of faith, sharing their experiences of being included or excluded from faith communities in Northern Ireland. Raising awareness and promoting a conversation in a safe space around LGBT lives and stories and how these fit with a faith context.
View video here.
Homeplus NI, runs a daily drop-in centre for refugees, asylum seekers, and destitute migrant workers as well as a nightly outreach for people sleeping rough in Belfast.
The Circle of Change funding was used to secure a permanent space for the SAWA Women’s group, a Quaker Meeting House in central Belfast now open Mondays – Tuesdays, 10am – 3pm. A project coordinator was hired and a member of staff who has direct experience of the asylum system. The women involved have devised sessions according to their own talents and qualifications, which due to not being able to work, gives them a chance to share their knowledge with other women whilst also developing their own practices. Current programmes offered are; yoga, driving theory classes, sewing, basic English, hair braiding and beauty treatments.
The group share knowledge, assist each other with accessing services, employment and education, attend training and information sessions. Women use the space to celebrate cultural and traditional celebrations such as EID, Ramadan, and Easter.
Participant said, “I can’t even begin to talk about the challenges we are faced with as asylum seekers, it’s just too much to handle on your own. Thanks to everyone at Homeplus and Circle of Change for your help we made it!”
Jigsaw Community Counselling Centre
Jigsaw Community Counselling Centre seeks to make a difference to the people of North Belfast and beyond by providing a caring, professional and confidential counselling service which supports people to be the best they can be.
Thanks to the Circle of Change Jigsaw Counselling was able to extend their opening hours to a four day week, 9am – 9pm. The funding has helped to provide a wage for late night admin staff but more importantly Jigsaw Counselling are able to offer more counselling sessions than ever before. Their service has become less restrictive and people who work full time during the day are able to access evening appointments whereas before they were not.
Carol Massey, CEO of Jigsaw `counselling said, “The project is thriving to the point that we have waiting lists. We can’t thank you all enough for your support and the difference this grant has made to Jigsaw.”
Loveworks is a worker-owned cooperative, creating a supportive and sustainable working environment for people who struggle to find employment on their own. Loveworks supports members of the community to gain skills and experience in gardening, bike repair, and baking, and want to use their skills to support their needs while providing a useful service to the wider community.
The Circle of Change helped to fund to staff wages, provide skills training and new equipment. Loveworks are working towards increasing their revenue by £1000 a month to reach the goal of being able to pay their staff members £8.21/hr (the new minimum wage). Staff gained additional training ensuring the team is kept up to date with food hygiene training and health and safety regulations. Loveworks also invested in equipment which helped them to increase their capacity to meet customer demand and again maximise wages for staff.
Ryan, one of the members from the beginning shared with us how Loveworks has given him a second chance. Before Lovework Ryan was unemployed and mixed up with the wrong crowd. Loveworks has provided him with a purpose, a routine and a new outlook on life. Now Ryan is self employed, working 40 hours a week and embedded into the community life and work that this cooperative provides.
Visit Loveworks here.
Our Social Space
Our Social Space creates a space for social connections within local communities. They recognise that loneliness has a huge affect on people’s physical and mental health therefore a need for a relaxed environment which provides low/no cost social activities for the community so users can grow their social networks in a welcoming space while learning new skills.
The Circle of Change Fund supported the ‘garden to plate’ programme. A therapeutic project where members grew their own plants and vegetables right from seed, learning how to care for these until they are ready for harvest. Plant beds where built with pallets and local businesses donated plants and seeds creating an inviting space for members of the community to spend time and learn new skills. .
Since then Our Social Space have built quite the activity schedule. They hold a ‘Meanders’ walking group on Monday, Tuesday it’s ‘Grow our Own’ gardening group and Thursday is the ‘Strollers’ walking group. They also hold various events throughout the week including a woodworks club and a ‘Munch Club’ which encourages healthy eating through cooking classes. It’s amazing just how one project can be the start of a various projects strengthening and building the community.
The Circle of Change is now in its third cycle, stay tuned for more updates on the projects they will support.
You can also make a donation here, please leave a note stating your donation is for ‘Circle of Change’ – Thank you.
Find out more about The Circle Of Change in our interview on Now TV below.