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It’s Bring Your Dog to Work Day!

June 22, 2018

Did you know that there are around 54 million pets in the United Kingdom? And 8.5 million of these are dogs! For many people, dogs are members of the family – a source of comfort, companionship and support. Giving them up is a prospect that doesn’t bear thinking about.

But when Karen Tipping was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had to face that possibility. Unable to look after her two dogs, Lily and Maisy, she risked losing “the girls” – until a unique local charity stepped in to help.

Karen, Lily and Maisy are a team – you can’t have one without the others.  But through gruelling chemo and radio therapy, Karen just wasn’t able to look after her girls. The thought of losing the lovable Border Collie Cross and her Shitzu sidekick was devastating.

“The fatigue from the chemo was like nothing I’d ever experienced,” says Karen. “There were days I couldn’t get off the sofa but I was very independent and didn’t like asking for help.

“Friends and family were great but the dogs needed regular long walks. Poor Lily was even putting on weight and I felt so guilty, so low.

“At one stage I’d to go into hospital for a week and the dogs had to be separated – one of my brothers took one and a friend the other. I don’t know what I’d have done without them but I knew this situation couldn’t go on.”

But around then a Macmilllan support worker told Karen about Rosie’s Trust, a Northern Ireland charity that matches volunteers with people whose poor health means they can’t look after their pets any more.

Thanks to National Lottery players, the charity received £499,281 of funding to build a network of volunteers across Northern Ireland so that they can help even more people keep their pets through illness or infirmity.

Karen Tipping ( right) from Bangor and Ruth Pinkerton who helped walk Karen’s dogs Misy and Lily during Karen’s cancer treatment. Picture by Brian Morrison.

As well as offering support with the day to day tasks of looking after a pet – walks, feeding, visits to the vet – Rosie’s Trust also matches pets with foster families if their owner is taken into hospital. However, it’s not just the pets who benefit from the services.

Ruth Pinkerton was one of three Rosie’s Trust volunteers assigned to Karen.

“I think I got more out of it than Lily and Maisy,” admits Ruth, a life-long dog lover. “I used to wonder what I’d do with my time when I retired but when a former colleague told me about Rosie’s Trust I thought it sounded like a good fit.

“Karen sent me a lovely little card at one stage which moved me to tears. She was thanking me for all the ‘long walks and love’ I’d brought to her girls. That sums up what Rosie’s Trust is all about.”

And Karen agrees: “It was lovely for me too that Ruth and the other friendly volunteers called because I felt so isolated. I looked forward to them calling as much as the dogs.

“The service had such a positive impact on how I coped with cancer. The dogs mean so much to me; I loved seeing them happy again.”

Karen Tipping ( left ) from Bangor and Ruth Pinkerton who helped walk Karen’s dogs Maisy and Lily during Karen’s cancer treatment. Picture by Brian Morrison.

Now phasing her return to work, Karen is slowly resuming her much-missed outings with her beloved pets.

“It’s great to feel some sort of normality returning. When you’re in the middle of cancer you think this is going to be your life for ever,” she admits.

“The last couple of months I’ve started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and much of that is down to the charity – as well, of course, as our wonderful NHS.

“I thought life as I knew it was over when I got that diagnosis. Now, thanks to Rosie’s Trust, the girls and I are looking forward to a future of long walks.”

Rosie’s Trust are able to continue with their work because of money raised by National Lottery players. If you’re interested in getting involved with the charity, check out their details below:


Twitter: @RosiesTrust


Casting a spotlight on Carer’s Week

June 11, 2018

To celebrate Carer’s Week, we’re casting a spotlight on some amazing groups from Northern Ireland who support carers through the ups and downs of looking after a loved one. All of these groups are making a real difference to carers and their families, and we want to thank National Lottery players for making this work possible.

The Escapists formed in 2008 to improve the lives of women carers of all ages. The 12 women who formed it were carers themselves, and had just completed a personal development course and wanted to share what they’d learnt.

Caring for a loved one can be a full time job and it‘s hard sometimes for carers to take a break from their responsibilities. The Escapists offer that chance, giving the women some time away – even for just a couple of hours a week.

“Our aim is to support parents of children and adults with learning difficulties or to any unpaid carer with a heavy caring burden. We’re committed to improving the holistic well-being of carers and their loved ones, and supporting carers’ continued personal development,” explains Clare McGovern from the Escapists. “We give carers a chance to relax and meet other carers who are in the same boat. We understand each other! It gives the carers time to chat and have fun and have a cuppa.”

ADHD Co Down Parent Support Group offer a network of support for the parents and carers of children and young adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).

People with ADHD can have a lot of energy and find it difficult to concentrate. They might also find it hard to control their impulses. Because of this, kids with ADHD might get in more trouble at school than other children.

But the condition is much more than just “bad behaviour”. In fact, that misconception can make life even more difficult for kids with ADHD and their families.

The Parent Support Group started when a group of parents came together to help each other and their children. The group meets once a month and work together to forge new friendships and build resilient support networks.

They provide valuable support and assistance to carers of children with ADHD, and are a great example of people using their strengths to help their community.

Morquio is a rare disease affecting the way a person’s body produces certain enzymes. The lack of these enzymes severely effects people’s physical abilities, including skeletal abnormalities, difficulty breathing, and hearing and vision loss.

The Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases is using money raised by National Lottery players to bring adults with Morquio and their carers together to hang out, have fun, and share their experiences of the disease.

It can be lonely when you or a loved one have a disease that most people have never even heard of, let alone understand. By bringing together carers and patients alike, the Society will combat some of that isolation and help build a sense of community.

These are just a handful of groups doing incredible work for carers and their loved ones throughout Northern Ireland.

Thanks to National Lottery players, they’re able to give carers much-needed support, whether  in the form of advice, companionship, or just a cup of cuppa and a listening ear.

The Big Walk visited some amazing projects in NI this week

May 25, 2018

By Helen-Rose Owen, Big Lottery Fund NI


It’s been a busy week for #TeamNI of #TheBigWalk. We were totally thrilled that the walker for Northern Ireland, @Michael_Conlon, and the team stopped at some fantastic projects who received funding through

the National Lottery.

On Friday 18th May, The Big Walk team arrived in Belfast! Check out the photos from their very busy day here.

The team stopped at New Lodge and Duncairn Health Initiative (NLDCHP) during their walk in Belfast, who are funded by the Big Lottery Fund. NLDCHP were awarded £696,836 of money raised by National Lottery players for their project, Supporting Families North Belfast. Over five years, the group will work with families and children across North Belfast to improve their health – both physical and emotional.

By working with local health and wellbeing organisations, NLDCHP will teach children and their parents and carers about nutrition, physical activity and stress management. The project will boost children’s confidence and improve their resilience. Kids will be able to cope better when things get difficult, an important investment for their future mental health.

On Wednesday 23rd May, the Big Walk team visited The Escapists in Fermanagh. The Escapists are a group of women carers who come together to support each other through the ups and downs of caring for a loved one. The Escapists received £35,325 from the Big Lottery Fund in January last year for their project, Me Time. With this relatively small pot of money, they’ve developed a powerful programme that has a real and positive impact on the women it serves.

Have a look at some of the photos taken during the stop at

Caring for a loved one can be a full time job and it can be hard for carers to take time off from their responsibilities. The Escapists offer that chance, giving the women some time away – even for just a couple of hours a week.

“Our aim is to support parents of children and adults with learning difficulties or to any unpaid carer with a heavy caring burden. We’re committed to improving the holistic wellbeing of carers and their loved ones, and supporting carers’ continued personal development,” explains Clare McGovern from the Escapists. “We give carers a chance to relax and meet other carers who are in the same boat. We understand each other! It gives the carers time to chat and have fun and have a cuppa.”


On Thursday 24th, Michael and the team had a very special assignment. He dropped in for a surprise visit to St Eoghan’s Primary School in Draperstown and presented them with a cheque for £10,000!

Watch their reaction to the news here

Paschal Diamond, Principal from St Eoghan’s Primary school said, ‘Getting funding from the National Lottery is fantastic news for our school. It will make such a difference to our outdoor learning space and will allow us to open the school up to become a hub of activity for everyone in the community.’

On Friday 25th, Big Walk team dropped in on an incredible project based in Ballymoney.

Compass Advocacy Network (CAN) are one of many projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund who work with young people with disabilities. CAN help to give young people the power to become self-advocates and gain valuable employment skills whilst they develop their self-esteem and confidence.

Janet Schofield, CEO of CAN, says: “Young people with a learning disability struggle when it comes to leaving school, leaving children’s services and moving into adult services – it’s a massive leap. CAN Pathways will provide a person centred approach to planning that transition by discovering the dreams and aspirations of the young person and the support they want and need to enable them to get the life they choose.”

All of this amazing work has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players. We at the Big Lottery Fund love to support projects that support people to realise their own dreams and ambitions.

The Eden Project calls for communities in Northern Ireland to reclaim “Sunday Lunch” and bring people closer together

April 30, 2018






Guest blog by Grainne McCloskey, NI Manager for The Eden Project

New research shows that only 58% of us in Northern Ireland sit down to Sunday lunch every week. Now Eden Project Communities is urging local communities to “Reclaim Sunday Lunch” and use it to bring communities closer together and tackle loneliness and isolation.

The research carried out online by YouGov Plc during February 2018 also shows:

  • Over half of us (52%) in Northern Ireland sat down to Sunday lunch more often as a child than we do now
  • 7% now have Sunday lunch less than once every two months, while 9% admit to never having Sunday lunch.

Despite this, many of us still recognise the benefits of communal eating with three quarters (74%) agreeing Sunday Lunch is about getting together with loved ones. 75% say that the food is the key ingredient for a successful Sunday lunch while 75% also say that the people we eat with are key.  Getting people together is one of the most effective ways of tackling the growing crisis around loneliness and social isolation. A recent study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross showed over 9 million adults in the UK of all ages – more than the population of London – are either always or often lonely.

Pacemaker Press Belfast 07-05-2015: A VE-Day themed Big Lunch, in conjunction with Belfast City Council, at the NI War Memorial in Belfast. Pictured at the event Liz Weir and Grainne .
Picture By: Arthur Allison.

That’s why Eden Project Communities is calling for all of us to reclaim Sunday Lunch and bring it back as a chance to get together – with who we want, when we want and eating and drinking whatever they fancy. Why not join millions of others across the UK and sit down to have lunch with your neighbours as part of The Big Lunch on Sunday 3rd June 2018, the UK’s biggest annual get together for neighbours. Order your free pack at


Eden Project network member and Big Lunch advocate Liz Weir is passionate about the Big Lunch and its role in reviving community spirit. She will be hosting her third Big Lunch this June at her home Ballyeamon Barn, which is a writer’s retreat and hostel in Glenariff Forest.

“When I was a child the family gathered together for meals,” said Liz.” There was no TV in the house when I was growing up, and people would come round and entertain each other.

“I’m bringing those days back. Every weekend, people come from all over to gather in my house. We have tea and coffee and biscuits and old and young alike take it in turns to tell their stories and sing their songs. Sometimes they are folk tales, sometime ghost stories or recitations of poems.”

“Nowadays we share food and tales with people from several countries at our Big Lunch. The fact that people come together to prepare and share food from Poland, South Africa, Germany, Slovakia, Italy, USA, France warms my heart.”

The Big Lunch – an idea from The Eden Project made possible by The National Lottery – will be held this year on Sunday 3 June, aiming to beat last year’s record involvement of 9.3 million people across the UK. The annual event encourages people to get together with others in their neighbourhoods to share food and fun.

Julie Harrison, Chair of Big Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, said:
“Whether two people or two hundred, sitting down together to eat and talk is important for individual people, families and communities. This is why we are supporting the Big Lunch, which provides the perfect opportunity for people to build connections, spark friendships and lay the foundations that enable communities to thrive.”

Visit the Big Lunch website to order your free event pack and to find out more.


5 top tips from our #BIGNIFunding campaign

December 1, 2017

We have been asking staff from Big Lottery Fund and successful National Lottery funded projects for their top tips on applying for funding.

This blog shares the latest 5 top tips from our #BIGNIFunding campaign.  If you missed the start, you can catch up with a roundup of the first 10 tips.

#11   We fund constituted not-for-profit organisations, but they don’t need to be registered charities.

#12  We can’t process your application form if the name on the form is different from the name on the attachments you provide.

#13  Paul Johnston from Monkstown Boxing Club shares their approach to finding out about challenges and developing ideas for their application to our Empowering Young People programme.

#14  Find a funding source that suits your project idea.  This helps to make sure your project is truly people led. You should not develop your project to fit a specific programme.

#15  Successful grant applicant, Shiela Smyth, explains how The Right Key made good use of local people’s skills and energy and got them involved in the design and delivery of their People and Communities project.

Keep following our #BIGNIFunding campaign in the new year on facebook and twitter

To find out more about our funding, visit our website.

You can contact the Big Lottery Fund advice team in Northern Ireland by emailing or telephoning 028 9055 1455 and selecting option 2.  Our team is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.