86 groups are celebrating Awards for All funding today

One of the groups is using a unique form of therapy through scuba diving to boost the confidence of people with learning disabilities.

People with learning disabilities are taking part in aqua therapy sessions
People with learning disabilities are taking part in aqua therapy sessions

Acqua-Psychotherapy has received a £9,156 grant from our Awards for All programme. The group, which is based in east Belfast, is using their grant to provide acqua therapy sessions for adults with learning difficulties from across Belfast. Current sessions are taking place in Shankill Leisure Centre with people from the Orchardville Centre in Finaghy.

This is part of our grants announcement today of £761,601 to 86 groups across Northern Ireland.


Christina Cushnahan, psychological co-ordinator from Acqua-Psychotherapy, said: “Water therapy would be a commonly used tool but using scuba diving is something new that our organisation is bringing to Northern Ireland.

Scuba diving is being used as a therapeutic tool
Scuba diving is being used as a therapeutic tool

“We are working with small groups of people with learning disabilities who attend day centres across Belfast. The experience of being in the water regularly and doing something so different that they wouldn’t normally get to is do is exciting for them. I want to spark something inside them that’ll make them feel good and proud of themselves.

“With the funding we are able to run weekly sessions at the pool and we see improvements every week for the members of the group. I’m in the water with them and talk to them during the activity about how they are feeling. I can see their communication and social skills improving as well. It’s also very relaxing and calming for them.

“Diving can be seen as a difficult task for anyone and an activity that most people have never tried before, so when they try it and are able to do it, they feel proud of themselves — that they have accomplished something — and their confidence grows and grows. This confidence stays with them when they leave the pool and helps them take on other challenges in their lives.”

Reach Across, which is based in Derry/Londonderry also received a grant of £8,720. The group encourages cross community contact between young people in the west of Northern Ireland. The project is using the funding to bring young people together by organising a series of classes and residentials for 120 young people, finishing with a showcase event.

Brian McGuigan, co-ordinator for Reach Across said: “The young people involved in our projects are from all across the North West. For many, taking part in one of our Spring Contact residentials is their first ever cross community experience. The majority of young people are interested because they want to make new friends and experience new activities. We approach schools and ask the young people to apply to us but we also get a lot of referrals from worried parents or social services.

“The residentials are vital in getting the young people involved and making that initial contact. After taking part in the Spring Contact residentials, young people can attend weekly group meetings and apply for places on international projects, so that contact and development can continue. They get the chance to take part in other activities we run such as workshops and courses — but it could be something as simple as a pizza and DVD night. We want to create positive experiences for the young people to meet each other at and keep relationships going.”

Interested in applying for Awards for All?

We have just launched a new simpler, shorter and quicker Awards for All application process. There are fewer questions and we aim to make decisions on all applications within 8 weeks. Otherwise, the funding programme remains exactly the same.

For more info please visit our website.


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