28 Jun 2019
When we think of giving and philanthropy, often the image that comes to mind is of a top-hatted Victorian gentleman, Andrew Carnegie or John Cadbury perhaps and if modern philanthropists are in our thoughts Bill Gates or Warren Buffet may ring a bell.
All very wealthy individuals their vast wealth can make them seem as though they inhabit a very different world from you and I. Yet at the most fundamental level their motives in giving are the same as ours, to make a real difference to those in society less well-off and to leave the world a better place.
At the Community Foundation we advise support and inspire local philanthropy and people who want to make a difference by connecting them to the causes that matter. Matching generous people with important community causes, every year, we award grants to hundreds of small charities in Northern Ireland working in partnership with others to make an impact.
One in every eight people in NI benefited through the Foundation last year and we awarded over £2M in grants, but whilst statistics can be impressive, the real impact can be seen at an individual level when lives are changed.
People tell us they feel less socially isolated, their health and well-being is improved and they have better life skills helping them into employment and with education as a result of our support.
We recently visited Cloughmills Community Gardens, a great example of local philanthropy and a project the Community Foundation has helped to fund. Led by volunteers, they shared with us how they have transformed an unused space in Cloughmills into an area for people of all ages in the community to benefit from. Over the past 10 years, Cloughmills Community Garden has grown and is now home to the first Community Fridge in Northern Ireland which is thriving within the community which aims to reduce food waste. They have also developed a men’s shed, a library of things where tools and equipment such as hedge clippers, breadmakers and power washers are donated by the community for the community encouraging generosity and recycling at a local level. An outdoor kitchen and vegetable garden is also used to maximum capacity and includes running a gardening and food growing project for women, where they meet regularly to grow and then cook their own food. The life-changing aspect of this project according to volunteer Barbara Donnelly is the confidence-building of women who take part and the opportunity they get to socialise, have fun and learn together. “We organise the course at a time when our children are at school so that women with caring responsibilities can take part and the course is oversubscribed” she added.
Their unique project, ‘Free Range Families’ is one of the most popular programmes in Cloughmills where the gardens are open to families to learn and discover where food comes from and everyone gets the opportunity to get their hands dirty.
David Scholes, Chair of the Telecommunity Fund at the Foundation reflected on our visit and said
“I found it really interesting and a great example of a simple, repeatable model for driving community cohesion. It would be difficult not to be inspired by the passion, selflessness and creativity of those leading the project. They clearly live for it and seem to give endlessly of themselves, seeking out and making the most of opportunities. It is great to see how much can be made of a little, and how the little we can give unlocks so much potential.”
Our visit to Cloughmills was inspiring and a great example of how local philanthropy is alive and well in Northern Ireland. When driven by the passion of people in a local area with support from others, so much can be achieved.