Portstewart Men’s Shed provides a lifeline to many men who come along each week to take part in activities or just have a cup of tea and a chat. The friendship provided at groups like this are especially vital in the long winter months which can be the loneliest time of the year for older people who have lost a loved one and may be living on their own.
Portstewart Men’s Shed is run by Be Safe Be Well, who are using £500,000 of money raised by National Lottery players to provide spaces for men to meet, take part in activities, learn and share skills, and receive support. As well as the Portstewart Men’s Shed, which was set up 18 months ago, they also run sheds in Forglen, Coleraine and Limavady.
For Stuart McNicholl, being part of the community at the Portstewart shed helped him get through the most difficult time in his life.
Stuart (69), from Portrush met the love of his life Marlene when he was only 12 years old. They were inseparable all their lives until Marlene passed away this June. But the support and friendship from the men at Portstewart Men’s Shed has made every day since a little bit easier.
“It took me a while to pluck up the courage to go to the men’s shed. I wasn’t doing anything else at the time apart from visiting Marlene in hospital but the social worker kept encouraging me. Six weeks after I joined the shed my wee Marlene passed away. I have a close family but the support from the guys here gave me an extra boost,” said Stuart.
“When I come to the shed the boys put an arm around me and ask how I am. It’s nice to come somewhere that people care about you and some may have gone through something similar. Everyone here has a different story, they could have health problems, issues with loved ones, or just want some company. All my life I’ve found that men don’t talk about their problems, but the shed is different.
“I couldn’t recommend it enough to other men in the area. Not only are the people fantastic, but there are computers, you can play pool, do woodwork, play music, cook and we’re going to do art classes soon. It’s only been around six months since I started coming here but it’s been a lifeline to me.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, Be Safe Be Well are supporting men aged over 25 to cope better with issues including bereavement, poor mental health, physical disability or mild learning disability. The men are involved at every stage of the project and are committed to making it a shared space for all members.
The project is making a big difference for men in the area as Catherine Taylor, director of Be Safe Be Well, explains: “The men who come to our sheds are often in a low place with their mental health, but being a member here, getting access to support, and feeling part of our community can help them turn that around.
“Maybe they have been isolated due to retirement or bereavement, but the common factor tends to be loneliness and finding themselves going from having productive lives to feeling hopeless. So coming to the shed can help them find a new meaning in life and a place where they belong.”
To find out more about Be Safe Be Well visit their website: http://besafebewell.co.uk/