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“Find your circle of support and you can achieve anything.”

July 16, 2019

“Find your circle of support and you can achieve anything.” These are the words of Tasleem Billal, 37, from east Belfast. In 2012, tragedy struck Tasleem and her family, leaving her vulnerable, isolated, and unsure where to turn. But thanks to GLOW, a Belfast-based group using funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to help women to reach their goals, Tasleem was able to turn her life around. 

Mum of three Tasleem moved to Belfast after marrying her husband, Billy, in Pakistan. She and Billy had two children together, Mohammed and Jamal, but Tasleem struggled with the language and depended on Billy for everything. 

“Moving here was a big change for me,” said Tasleem. “My English wasn’t great, it was hard for me to understand people especially with the accent. My husband came with me to all my medical appointments and he dealt with all the finances.” 

Tasleem and her children were completely dependent on Billy. But in 2012, after nine years of marriageBilly passed away suddenly due to a blood clot in his lungs. 

“Billy’s parents moved us to east Belfast after the funeral so we could be near them. I knew I didn’t want to depend on them forever. The boys were struggling and I didn’t know how I was going to cope. 

“It was on one day, when I only had £20 left that I knew I had to do something. Jamal was crying because he wanted food and it was cold and the gas meter was about to run out and I just burst into tears.” 

Tasleem opened up about her problems to another mum at the school gates.  Fortunately for Tasleem, the woman she spoke to was Chara Clarke, the director at GLOW. 


Tasleem and Chara at Tasleem’s home studio

GLOW delivers personal development, life skills and mentoring to women to empower them reach their goals. Since 2012 they’ve received around £150,000 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to support their work. 

Tasleem explained: “Chara was amazing. She helped me get a National Insurance number and apply for benefits. When I started receiving job seekers allowance of £70 a week it felt like £70 million.  

“I needed to look for a job but I had no work experience or confidence. Chara helped me realise that I have skills – I can thread eyebrows – and she invited me to GLOW to take part in some classes to get support and improve my confidence. 

“From the moment I walked into GLOW I felt at ease,” said Tasleem. “There were lots of other women in different situations, but we were all there to improve ourselves. 

Tasleem started a business threading eyebrows, working out of her living room. Since joining the group, Tasleem has gained the skills and confidence to expand her business. She now has a separate studio in her house where she does a range of beauty services, including nails, HD brows, and lashes. Thanks to National Lottery players, Tasleem has been able to come off benefits and support her family through her own earnings. But it’s her family’s happiness that she values most. 


Tasleem has been able to expand her business to include a variety of services

My family in Pakistan are very proud of me and so are my children – they are what gives me strength,” she said. “Being a single mum is hard so working from home is really handy for me, but as the boys are getting older my next goal is to open up my own salon in east Belfast. 

I still miss Billy so much, but I found a circle of support and I found myself. 

Chara Clarke, director of GLOW said: “Having funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the years has enabled GLOW to support many other women just like Tasleem.  

“We want to give these women confidence and self-esteem so they can discover their potential and go out and live a life that makes them happy and that makes a positive impact on their families and communities.” 

To find out more about GLOW, visit their website:  

To learn about National Lottery funding in Northern Ireland, check out our website:  

Fancy attending the Eden Project Community Camp this year? You can apply now

July 8, 2019

Guest blog by Niamh Scullion, Eden Project Communities

Applications are now open for the Eden Project Community Camps in Cornwall in September and November 2019 with 12 places available this year for people from all areas of Northern Ireland.
The camps include all return travel to Cornwall, accommodation at Eden Project site, delicious healthy food and a variety of engaging activities, all free of charge to participants thanks to support from the National Lottery.

Camp participants can look forward to three days of inspiring talks, workshops, engagement activities and story sharing with around 60 other community activists and organisers. These can have a life-changing impact on some people as many of our past participants have attested:

Hugh Hegarty from Derry visited the community camp in November 2018 and subsequently set up MENd, a mental health initiative for men in Derry. Hugh said “I must say that all I had been previously told about how good the camp was still didn’t properly prepare me for what I experienced. I loved every second of it, from making new friends from all areas of the UK to learning do much about other aspects of community projects as well as the training we received. Undoubtedly one of the best weekends I’ve ever had.”

Eileen Chan-Hu from Carryduff, Co. Down said “I went to the camp of April 2016 and met many great people from across UK. We still keep in touch today! I had great times learning from each other and the joys of community spirit at such an inspiring place. Eden Project helped to facilitate our thinking and keeping us motivated to always know we can help each other, no matter if it was a small or big project. To imagine, visualise and return from our visit, inspired. Since then at South Belfast Lantern Parade, we keep going each Christmas, the loneliest time at the year for some to have a lantern parade in the park.”

Alison Torrens from Portstewart in Co. Derry attended the Eden Camp several years ago in 2013. She said “It was a truly wonderful experience and I was inspired by a host of amazing community driven ideas and events taking place throughout the UK. An awesome place to explore.
Lee Robb, from Carrickfergus in Co Antrim attended in 2016. She said “The Eden Project community camp was a life changing experience that helped me find my purpose and, I believe, make a real contribution in NI.”

Rosie Finnegan-Bell from South Armagh said: “My visit to the Eden Camp in September 2019 was simply one of the best things I’ve ever done. It really motivated me and helped me crystallize my idea for a community based project. It also helped me to build the confidence to put myself out there to bring the idea of our South Armagh Lace Collective project forward. We are thriving as a group now and have achieved so much in such a very short space of time. We’ve had to think outside the box as we had no funding. But the persistence that I heard people talk about at Eden paid off. The group has become a wonderful reason for us to come together as a community and is a wonderfully diverse group of people of all ages and abilities. I have no doubt that this wonderful group would not exist if it hadn’t been for the Eden Camp. It was a truly wonderful opportunity to meet some of the most innovative, creative and inspiring people. I have made friends that I know will be friends for life. I am indebted to Eden for this and much more.”

Mary McCoy from Dromore, Co. Tyrone said: “Attending the Eden Project was an inspirational experience for me and as a result it catapulted me into working more with my local community of Dromore, Co. Tyrone and encouraging others to get on board to improve our town and get our whole community working together. Very worthwhile and insightful!”

The camps provide opportunities to link in with a network of more than 1000 community organisers across the UK to share ideas, inspiration, and experience, and to re-energise your community project and yourself. The camp attendees usually include Big Lunch organisers, community walk organisers, litter pick organisers, community gardeners, environmental activists, people working to promote diversity, inclusion and equality, civic pride projects, fundraisers, and an array of other community projects. Anyone who is bringing their community together in a voluntary capacity to create positive social change is encouraged to apply. The application is very short and simple and should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

There are two camps open for application, the first runs from Friday 20 until Monday 23 September and the second camp runs from Friday 22 to Monday 25 November. Applications will be assessed throughout the summer until the places are filled. Those received in July will have the best chance of acceptance.

Camps are specifically for people volunteering in their community or who have set up Social Enterprises or Community business who are hoping to take their project further, looking for inspiration, or be part of a growing network of community activists.

Eden Project Communities also has follow-up events, training, and networking opportunities and a national event for network members each year, so once you’ve attended one of these camps, you can stay connected with even more network members.

For further media information, photo-shoots, interviews and other enquiries, please contact Niamh Scullion on or 07850 914533

£10 million for Northern Ireland communities

June 28, 2019

On June 19, we announced almost £10 million of money raised by National Lottery players for groups who are bringing people together to help their communities thrive 

A total of 31 groups across Northern Ireland were awarded £9,420,282, with young people and people with learning disabilities among those benefiting from the fundingIn case you missed it, here’s a look at some of the incredible groups being funded through our Empowering Young People and People and Communities programmes. 


CAN in Ballymoney are supporting people with learning disabilities to make friends

CAN, based in Ballymoney, are using a £361,297 grant to run their five-year Community LINX Project. The project supports local adults with learning disabilities and autism aged over 18 to take part in different activities, make friends, and build relationships.  

As part of a buddying scheme, some people will be paired with able-bodied buddies to spend time with and do social activities like going shopping or going to the cinemaThere will also be a regular social club for people to meet up and make friends, and support and advice on communication skills and keeping healthy friendships. 

Linda McKendry, director of services for CAN, said: “This is an amazing opportunity for our guys to come together with people in their own communities for social and leisure opportunities and expand their networks. The friendship is two-way and as one of our young Peer Buddies said, ‘I never had a friend until I had a buddy’. 

Family Care Adoption Services project Launch

Family Adoption Services are helping young people learn about their life stories

Family Care Adoption Services is working with young people in the Antrim area. They’re using a0 £500,000 grant over five years for their Life Story Project, working with young people who have been separated from their birth families and don’t have information about their past. 

Project staff will gather information on the young person’s life and work with them to create a Life Story in a medium chosen by the young person. The story includes the young person’s thoughts, memories, artwork, and key events and anecdotes about the young person.  

Maggie McSorley, CEO, Family Care Adoption Services said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded this grant from the National Lottery Community Fund. This project is a unique service which will work with young people across Northern Ireland who are fostered, adopted or have been in care, and are struggling to make sense of their earlier lives. The project will help them to uncover and understand their past in a personal and meaningful way, and gain a greater sense of their identity and their unique value in the process. 

Easilink 1

Easlink are connecting isolated people in rural areas

Easilink Community Transport helped people in rural parts of Strabane, Derry/Londonderry and Omagh get out and about, including older people, people with disabilities, and low-income families. Thanks to National Lottery players, they’re using £452,207 to provide transport to hospitals across the Western Health and Social Care Trust area and services outside the local area. They are also developing a Volunteer Car Schemerunning trips, and training volunteer drivers who will use their own cars and accompany people who need support at different appointments or events. 

Paddy McEldowney, Chief Executive of Easilink Community Transport said: “This is a great opportunity for us to extend our existing local rural transport service to include affordable transport provision for rural people to attend Hospital Appointments across the Western Trust area. We’re keen to recruit additional volunteers to our Volunteer Car Scheme to help us provide this much needed service – working in partnership with Omagh Volunteer Centre and North West Volunteer Centre.” 

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. 

To read about all 31 grants announced last week, click here. 

Application forms and guidance notes are available to download at If you have any questions or would like to chat to us about a funding idea, call us on 028 9055 1455, or e-mail us at 

Putting people in the lead

June 28, 2019

We want all the projects we fund to put people in the lead. But what does that mean, and how does it work in practice? We chatted to funding officer Chris McClure about what we’re looking for in applications. Chris has been working at the Fund for nine years, so has plenty of experience in what makes a great application!

“Putting people in the lead means speaking to whoever you’re trying to work with,” Chris says. “We’re flexible about how you do that. We’re also realistic about how it looks depending on the size of your organisation. But we do need to see the community involved in the project’s development. We want to fund projects developed with people, not done to them!

“Putting people in the lead is good for your project, too. Involving people in the planning stages improves your chances of reaching your target audience. Being involved in the project’s development will also help to keep people engaged with your work. The impact will last, even if the activities you’re running come to an end.”


Getting people involved in planning your project can help keep people engaged with your work

There are lots of ways to get your community involved in your project. Chris recommends finding a way that works best for your project and the people you want to talk to.

“Some groups send out questionnaires, some run focus groups. Others get people together for a cup of tea and a chat,” says Chris. “The important thing is to get people involved in a way that means you hear them.

“One of the groups I’ve worked with wanted to make improvements to their town. They set up a stall in the town centre and asked people to share their ideas that way.

“Another group I know supports young people with learning disabilities. It didn’t work for them to use surveys, so they had to adapt. They had informal conversations instead. They also included the young people’s parents and carers in the conversation.”

We also asked Chris what people find difficult about making applications.

“Some people still find our application forms a barrier. It’s hard to reflect their project in them. I’d like to emphasise that we’re always happy to chat to you about your application and give you advice and support.

“In my day to day work, I talk to groups interested in applying, in the process of applying, or who already have funding. Whatever stage of the application process you’re at, you can always get in touch and talk to us.”

To chat about your project idea, application, or any other questions you might have, phone us on 028 9055 1455 or send us an email at

National Lottery Community Fund shines a light on investment in Derry and Strabane

June 24, 2019

Today our UK board were out and about in Derry/Londonderry shining a light on some of the great projects we have funded in the city and celebrate the difference National Lottery players’ money has made.

In the past year, we have invested just over £2 million in National Lottery cash in 64 projects in Derry City and Strabane. Ranging from £922 to allow a playgroup to deliver creative activities to one of £500,000 to support young people to become health and wellbeing champions.

Board members visited organisations across the city and saw the difference money raised by National Lottery players is making to people’s lives.

One of the projects the Board visited was Liberty Consortium where they saw how National Lottery cash is helping the group support young people with learning disabilities to become more independent and confident.

They visited the group’s Playtrail site, which offers play and outdoor learning, and its HUB, which provides day opportunities for young adults with learning disabilities.

Anne Marie Donnelly, transition manager at Liberty Consortium, said: “We were delighted to host the UK Board of the National Lottery Fund and show them what a difference this investment is making to our young people.

“They got a chance to see our Playtrail site, including meeting young people gaining valuable work experience in our Tea in the Park mobile coffee shop.

“They also met young people in our HUB and saw one of their disability awareness performances. It’s amazing to see how far the young people have come and we want to say thanks to National Lottery players for making it possible.”

The UK Board also visited Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum, Kinship Care and Caw Nelson Drive Action Group and Gortilea Social Farm in Claudy.

Our chair, Julie Harrison, said: “I’m delighted to welcome UK colleagues to Derry/Londonderry to celebrate our investment and to see first-hand how National Lottery money is improving people’s lives and communities.

“It’s wonderful to see that so many groups are using National Lottery funding to help communities to thrive. Like all the projects we fund, the projects that our UK Board have visited today are making a real difference to the lives of many local people.

“It’s also great to see the legacy that we have created with more than 20 years of investment into organisations across the north west and to celebrate the impact and journey over that time.

“It’s particularly timely that we have been able to see that impact as we approach the 25th birthday of the National Lottery later this year.”