Skip to content

Meet our team working in the western area

November 15, 2018

Over the past year we have been out of the office more and working in areas across Northern Ireland.  This helps us to ensure that our work is better informed through developing local knowledge and making stronger connections across the region.

Our team have divided up into four geographic areas, so we can work with you, our customers, at a more local level and find out more about what matters to people in your community.  We will be on hand to chat to you about your ideas and support you with your projects that have been developed and shaped by the people you are working with.

Over the next few months we’ll be introducing you to the teams in each area. This month we would like to introduce you to our team working in the Western Area.  This team covers the Mid Ulster, Fermanagh and Omagh council areas.

We have six team members working within the western area supporting our customers; Jenny FitzgeraldColin HowellsHelen HillMichael LiggettOwen Fenton and Bronagh Diamond.  Our western team are supported by co-workers from our Knowledge and Learning, Communications, Business Support and Funding teams.

Our team have been out meeting with groups working in your area; they have been based in community venues providing support to groups who are thinking of applying for funding.  We love to chat to you and welcome conversations about the project ideas your community have developed.  It is fantastic for us to hear how you are building on the strengths and abilities already in your community and using existing resources to order do this.  We can also support you by linking you up with like-minded groups in your area.  You can visit our Facebook page to find out when we will be in your area, so you can pop in for a chat.

You can also contact us if you would like to chat about funding options or discuss your project idea by calling 028 9055 1455.  You can also email our western team directly by clicking on their names above.  We can also help with promoting and publicising your project if your application to us is successful so please do get in touch.

On 6th December, we will be hosting an event in Clogher Valley Community Centre area. We are inviting groups who work in the Augher, Clogher, Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Caledon, Castlecaulfield and Fivemiletown areas to place a bid for £500 of National Lottery Funding for their project idea.  You can get in touch with our team to get an entry form.  Completed entries should be submitted by 19th November. We are also inviting anyone who lives and works in the Clogher Valley area to come along on the night to decide on who gets the funding.

One hundred and eleven projects in your area are currently supported with £10.5m of National Lottery funding.    We currently have three grant programmes open for applications Awards for All, People and Communities and Empowering Young People.

Over the past year, Awards for All has supported fifty groups in the Mid Ulster council area to the value of £449,454 50. Thirty-five groups in the Fermanagh and Omagh council area have also benefited from £310,945 through our popular small grants programme.

Our People and Communities programme is currently supporting eleven projects based in your area to the tune of £2,150,740.  Projects like Community First Aid Responders County Armagh and Tyrone and Mid UIster Volunteer Centre received funding through this programme.

Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Access for Success project have received funding through our Empowering Young People programme, which is currently supporting five projects in your area with just under £2.4m in funding thanks to National Lottery players.

You can find out more about the projects supported in your area, all thanks to National Lottery players, by entering your postcode into the grant search option of our website

People and Communities

November 12, 2018

On October 17th, we announced almost £900,000 of money raised by National Lottery players being used by community groups across Northern Ireland. In case you missed it, here’s a look at some of the incredible groups being funded through Big Lottery Fund’s People and Communities programme.

Down Special Olympics Club is using a £37,350 grant to expand the work they do to new members and volunteers. Member of the club are aged from 14 to over 65 and have a range of learning disabilities. As well as taking part in a whole package of Olympic sports and activities, being part of the group helps members to make friends and build their confidence.

Fintan O’Connor, 39, who has autism, joined seven years ago. Fintan discovered he had a talent for golf when he was 15 and thanks to the support he’s received from the club, he won a gold medal at the All Ireland Special Olympic Games in Dublin in June.

Celine O’Connor, Fintan’s mum, said being part of Down Special Olympics Club has made a huge difference to him.

Celine said: “The social and life opportunities the Special Olympics have brought are so important. Fintan has had experiences which otherwise he probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to tackle.

“For instance, going to the Triple Crown in Dublin was something right out of Fintan’s comfort zone. Then he travelled to the Ireland Special Olympics in June this year with the rest of the team on the train and stayed with them in accommodation at Dublin City University – we were able to give him his independence and stay in a separate hotel.”

Sion Mills & District Carers Support Association also received funding from the People and Communities programme. They’re using £36,000 to support carers from Sion Mills, Victoria Bridge and Castlederg. Caring for a loved one can be exhausting work, and the group offers carers some well-deserved respite. They also give advice on benefits for carers and the people they look after, as well as running first aid and medication training and sessions on healthy eating and fitness, and relaxation techniques.

Bann Maine West Community Cluster is using £82,550 to help older people in Mid and East Antrim come together, learn new skills, and make connections through a series of lunch and learn sessions, learning workshops, and trips to sites of historical interest. They are also holding a celebration event to acknowledge volunteers’ hard work, share learning, and plan for the future.

Greenlight Gateway are supporting people with learning disabilities in the Causeway Coast and Glens area by using £99,250 to help them organise social activities. Activities might include crazy golf, drumming, picnics and concerts – whatever the group’s members prefer! There’ll also be sessions on life skills like money-handling, safety awareness and healthy eating.

In rural communities like Loughgiel, community associations like the Loughgiel Community Association can play an important role in getting people out of the house, building relationships, and getting together to support each other. Continuing from decades of work in their community, now they’re using £197,619 to run health and wellbeing, fitness, and skills sessions for local people to build skills, develop a sense of community spirit, and bring people together.

Shopmobility Mid Ulster is using £198,813 to help people with limited mobility get out and about in their local community. They’re part of a network of Shopmobility schemes that lend mobility equipment to its members on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Demand has only increased since the group established in 2010, and now with the help of National Lottery funding the group is expanding to meet the needs of people in Coalisland, Moneymore, Stewartstown, Pomeroy, Fivemiletown, and Clogher, as well as improving the services already offered in Cookstown and Dungannon.

In Co. Down, Home-Start Down District are using £199,947 of money raised by National Lottery players to help families facing serious difficulties, from stress, isolation and mental illness to children with disabilities or additional or complex needs. Home-Start Down District works with those families who need a little more support to stop issues from escalating – they give families the help they need to tackle their difficulties before they get too overwhelming. Parents will be able to learn new skills and get support from other families like theirs, as well as having access to a family support worker, parent volunteers, a family support group and a parent programme.

Thanks to National Lottery players, these fantastic groups are able to continue working with their communities to bring people together and put the people they help front and centre in their work.

The Change Something Fund – Tina’s Story

November 5, 2018

Young people living in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area have just two days left to apply to The Change Something Fund.

A total of £100,000 is available through grants of £200 to £3000 for young people aged 13 -24 living who want to change something in their community. The programme is being managed by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s Acorn Fund and is funded by Big Lottery Fund and Derry and Strabane District Council.

The deadline to apply is 5pm this Wednesday (7th November 2018) and young people will need the support of a host organisation like a community group, a school or a club to apply.

Tina Curtis (17) is a young woman who is making positive changes in her community and in her own life. She has turned the page on her past anti-social behaviour and credits the support of a National Lottery funded youth project that is helping her to make the changes she wants.

After leaving school, Tina started to get involved with anti-social behaviour, and got into trouble with the police. But meeting a youth worker from Off the Streets Community Youth one evening was a real breakthrough – and now she’s turned her life around and is helping to organise activities that are benefitting the whole community.

Following that conversation, she joined Off the Streets Community Youth’s FATE Project (Future Aspirations Transformed Everyday), which is supported with a Big Lottery Fund grant of £600,000. It offers young people in the Greater Shantallow area a safe place where they can meet up and get involved in activities that will help change things for both themselves and their community for the better.

Tina said: “I knew myself that I had to change and I thought I would like to bring something back to the community and work alongside Off the Street to help that.

“I felt nervous at the start, but then I thought it’s going to make a positive change to me and the community, so I felt relieved then.”

Tina got involved in the project’s mentoring programme, and from there she went on to the youth planning committee and do other skills development. The new skills that Tina is learning are improving her confidence, and this is spurring her on to help her community and to create a more positive perception of young people.

Earlier this year, Tina put her learning into action by helping to organise a family fun day event in Greater Shantallow to help bring the community together. It was a great success with more than 300 people turning up.

“It was really down to us. We had Off the Street to help us but we had to plan everything and publicise it. We all had our own individual roles, but we worked as a team, too,” Tina said.

The first family fun day was so popular that they’ve held others since, and each time the young people take on different roles on the day so everyone gets a chance to develop their skills.

Tina has now returned to education and is studying childcare at North West Regional College, something that she didn’t imagine happening last year.

Tina said: “My confidence has definitely been boosted. I wasn’t going to go back to education but they gave me the motivation to help me sign up for tech.”

She has recently started a leadership course, and being involved in the Tools group helps her to find out about training opportunities and other skills that go towards finding employment, such as CV writing.

Tina’s advice to any young person who wants to change is to join a youth group. She said: “If you have support, take it because it’s definitely going to change you.

“Now that I can see myself that I’m changing, other people can see that I’ve changed, too. It makes me feel like a better person.”


For more information and to apply visit: 

 If you have any questions or need support please contact:

Acorn Fund Grants Team on 028 9024 5927

Acorn Fund Officer Shauna Kelpie on 028 7137 1547 or


The Change Something Fund – Xavier’s Story

November 2, 2018

One week left to apply for The Change Something Fund

Young people living in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area have until 7th November 2018 to apply to The Change Something Fund.

A total of £100,000 is available through grants of £200 to £3000 for young people aged 13 -24 living who want to change something in their community. The programme is being managed by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s Acorn Fund and is funded by Big Lottery Fund and Derry and Strabane District Council.

The Change Something Fund is supporting young people like Xavier Beardwood (17) from Derry/Londonderry who want to make a real change to their communities. Xavier is transgender and after struggling to feel accepted at school he is working with OUTNorth West to change things so that members of the LGBTQ+ community will be understood by the wider community.

LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Queer and Questioning and the + sign is other identities – such as intersex and non-binary.

Xavier is sharing his experiences to encourage other young people to apply for funding to make a difference in their community.

Xavier said: “I was 12 years old when I first came out. I changed my gender from female to male and changed my name to Xavier. It took me a long time to get the confidence to do that and it was really hard to tell my family but they have been very supportive. I feel I can be myself now, which is definitely less stressful.

“I used to go to an all-girls school but I was always different, I wasn’t girly like the rest of them. Some people assumed I was a lesbian and they made transphobic and homophobic comments to me. I never felt comfortable there, I didn’t even feel like I could talk to the teachers about the way I was feeling.

“I moved to a new school to do my A Levels. They were really welcoming and understanding, they call me by my new name and let me wear trousers – it’s been a brilliant change for me.”

Xavier found support outside of school through the Rainbow Health project. He joined their youth group four years ago and he’s now on the management committee for their OUT North West project. Last year the project received almost £500,000 of money raised by National Lottery players from Big Lottery Fund.


“It’s been great being part of Rainbow Health project where everyone accepts me for who I am and they understand the difficulties I’ve gone through. In OUTNorth West I’m working with other young people to change people’s attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people, particularly in education, community and healthcare services where many of us have had bad experiences.

“I think it is important to change attitudes and make schools, colleges, GP surgeries and other places more inclusive and supportive towards LGBT people. This can be done by simply giving the correct advice. There is a lot of information available online, but people can get a lot of misconceptions from online resources – especially social media.

“I want to use my own experiences to help create an informative resource that will provide answers for the more difficult questions people may ask, such as questions about surgery or the legalities of changing your name and your gender, as well as bring attention to the lesser known identities within the LGBTQ+ community (such as intersexual, pansexual, asexual and aromantic).

“We have the information we need and we are now deciding what format it will be in. I’m really excited to see the end product.

“I would tell other young people that you don’t have to ‘put up with’ anything that bothers you – you deserve better and have the power to change something.”

Young people interested in applying for funding will need the support of a host organisation like a community group, a school or a club.

Panels of young people living in the local area will then decide which projects are successful.


For more information and to apply visit  

Time to Shine – Craig’s Story

October 23, 2018

Craig Fisher understands better than most the impact that hearing loss can have on a person’s life. He struggled with his hearing loss for a long time before getting the support he so badly needed from Hearing Link, an amazing charity that supports people with hearing loss across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

In 2018, Hearing Link was successful in their application to Time to Shine, an internship programme run by the Rank Foundation that uses money raised by National Lottery players to support people into third-sector work. Craig was chosen as Hearing Link ’s intern, helping him out of unemployment and giving him the chance to get even more involved with a charity he loves.

We chatted to Craig about what it’s meant to him to be involved in Time to Shine, and how his personal experiences have influenced his internship.

“I was introduced to Hearing Link several years ago,” said Craig. “Because of my hearing loss, I withdrew from the world almost completely for quite some time and my self-confidence and self-esteem were as low as could be. But through Hearing Link, I’ve been able to start rebuilding my life.

“I started volunteering with Hearing Link a few years ago after being a participant in their programmes. I was so pleased to be able to give back to a charity that had helped me so much.”

Craig first heard about Time to Shine through a colleague and immediately saw an opportunity not just for himself but also for Hearing Link as an organisation.

“The team is quite small compared to the scope of the job it is trying to do,” Craig explained. “One more staff member could really help make a difference.

“On a personal level, I had been unemployed for some time as a direct result of my struggles with my hearing. This way, I could get useful and relevant experience in an organisation that really understood my needs.”

To be eligible for a Time to Shine intern, the host organisation has to have a specific project or area of work that they want their intern to work on during their year. For Craig, that was work was focussed on Hearing Link’s online presence and website.

“Because of how isolating hearing loss can be, our website might be the first point of contact a person has with us. A friendly, informative and reassuring website is key to letting people know that help is out there. For the last year I’ve been working to update the site and make it more accessible.

“I’ve also been investigating new technology around hearing loss. I delivered workshops on Next Generation Text Service, which supports people who can’t hear well on the phone to make phone calls by using a relay operator who types up the conversations.”

As a result of taking part in Time to Shine, Craig’s confidence has soared. It’s shown him that he can make a real difference to the world, and has even led to a job offer from the larger organisation of which Hearing Link is a part.

“Because of my personal experiences with hearing loss, I’ve been able offer my perspective to guide the activities of the charity.

“It’s meant a great deal to me to be able to help others who are so like me and experiencing many of the same struggles. I can help them see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The internship has helped me be a role model to others as people can see that I am living, working, travelling and engaging with the world even with severe hearing loss.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, Time to Shine gives people of all ages and from all walks of life the opportunity to get valuable experience. An intern might be someone like Craig who has been unemployed for a while, someone who wants to change careers, or someone who has never been employed before.

Applications close on Friday 26th October for VCSE organisations to be in with a chance of hosting their own Time to Shine intern. The funding is for a full time, living wage internship for 12 months, during which you’ll receive support on learning, networking, mentoring and coaching from the Rank Foundation.

If you think your organisation would benefit from taking part in Time to Shine, email Helen Stockdale at the Rank Foundation for an application form:


Or, if you’d like more information on Time to Shine and the application process, check out our blog post: