17 Sep 2020
In response to coronavirus and the changing needs within communities, our Coronavirus Funds have awarded over £4 million to nearly 1,000 communities throughout Northern Ireland. Bangor-based charity Rosie’s Trust is one organizations to receive funding from the Foundations Coronavirus Community Fund, helping extremely vulnerable people look after their pets, or to find a foster home for them.
Operations Manager at Rosie’s Trust, Jayne McStay said, “The range of work we do is enormous; we offer canine and feline support, which covers walking, playing, vet and groomer visits as well as fostering and rehoming (for existing beneficiaries) All our volunteers go through an intense training programme and we work closely with health trusts in four regions. Our focus is on keeping companion animals and their owners together and our volunteers build up relationships with the dogs, cats and people we’re helping.
“When lockdown happened, obviously we couldn’t call to people’s houses. We were very aware of social isolation so we mobilised our volunteers to keep communicating with the beneficiaries through daily check-in phone calls, keeping everyone connected. We encouraged our beneficiaries to spend extra playtime with their dogs and delivered interactive toys to some dogs for extra stimulation.
“As many of our beneficiaries are vulnerable with health and mobility issues, we had to plan for more demand for our fostering and rehoming services and Rosie’s Trust used the funding from the Community Foundation to purchase new foster kits our volunteers would need to look after the animals in their care and also PPE kits for volunteers to return to visits safely. This was a huge relief for us and as it was the first time we’d applied to the Community Foundation the speed and efficiency of the funding turnaround removed a lot of the stress from a very challenging situation.”
Semi-retired civil servant Kim, from Belfast, was looking for a new volunteering opportunity last year when she had some extra time available. She became aware of Rosie’s Trust and because she was an animal lover, she offered her services as a volunteer. “For me it was a win-win situation. The dog gets their walk, I got my dog fix and the pet’s owner got to keep their animal with them.”
Having gone through the volunteer training process, Kim started canine support visits for Rosie’s Trust in mid-February. When lockdown happened a month later, the charity prepared for a potential increase in the number of its beneficiaries needing to go to hospital, so put a call out to volunteers willing to foster animals. Kim was one of the volunteers who offered to foster; her only stipulation was that the dog should be calm and used to cats as she already had two cats of her own.
“Initially Ben’s owner went into hospital for two weeks, but then she needed to stay longer and go into respite care. Ben was settled and I was happy for him to stay longer. Sadly she passed away unexpectedly and Rosie’s Trust needed to find a new home for him. I’d been thinking for years about getting a dog but always worried about how the cats would cope or if the dog would get upset if I wasn’t there.
“With Ben I already knew the answers-he was happy and settled and fitted right in. Being an older dog (11) he sleeps when I’m not there and the cats aren’t too bothered by him. His age would put some people off adopting, but I wanted to give him another chance at life. I offered to adopt him.
“Sure, I’ve given him another chance at life but Ben has given loads to me too. He was great company along with the cats during lockdown when the only people I saw were over Zoom or through the window. He’s opened up a whole new world for me of other doggy people-when we’re out walking or in the park, people stop with their dogs and we chat away. We suit each other-I work one day in the office when a local dog walker takes him out and the other two days I work from home. He’s a fit and content wee dog and if I can give him a comfortable home for the rest of his days, then I’m happy with that.”
While the Coronavirus Community Fund is now closed, the Community Foundation launched the New Needs Fund in June which will remain open until 28th August. The fund is now open for applications, with grants of between £5k and £15k available. It will focus on community led initiatives and it is expected that the funding will support organisations to continue to provide services over the next eight months.
Síofra Healy, Director of Philanthropy at the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland explains;
“As we move out of the period of most immediate need, we’re focusing on the future, helping organisations to focus and deliver on action orientated, community led responses.
“Communities have demonstrated staggering generosity towards the vulnerable in society, however, the pandemic has further widened the chasm of societal inequalities, with already disadvantaged groups suffering the most. Our resilient and resourceful voluntary and community sector is facing huge challenges ahead in meeting these even greater needs. As a Foundation we will work with communities to provide support and funding to where it is most needed.”