Our reflections for International Women’s Day

Kyra Smyth, our Communications and Engagement Manager reflects on local women we featured over the last year, to help mark International Women’s Day.

March 2021 doesn’t seem to be working out much differently than March 2020. Little did we know that one year on we would still be living in the shadow of COVID-19.

We’ve been really proud to be able to profile the amazing work of National Lottery funded groups, who have stepped up in their communities like never before during this time. And what better day to have a throwback to celebrate some local women who went the extra mile.

Last April, The Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group used a £10,000 grant to meet the needs of people in Derry/Londonderry, creating ‘Immune Boosting’ packs to help people with cancer fight the virus.

Maureen and Jacquie from The Pink Ladies

At the time, Maureen Collins, Project Manager said:

“We believe in celebrating life, we are one big family here and want people to feel safe and cared for in their own homes. When you are diagnosed with cancer that’s enough to be getting on with never mind the added worry of COVID-19, so we’re doing our bit to help lessen these burdens.”

Women’s Aid has continued to support women across Northern Ireland living with experience of domestic abuse, and their services are needed now more than over. In August, Mid-Ulster Women’s Aid (MUWA) received £475,204 to help women exiting their services.

Martina Watson, from MUWA explained: “Thanks to the National Lottery money, our staff act as professional friends, offering practical one-to-one support so they can live their lives without the ever-present anxiety and loneliness, until they become more confident and have their own support networks. They have a chance to take part in activities, complete qualifications or get help with things they always wanted to do, such as learning to drive – something they may never have been allowed to do before.

“Their trauma is likely to stay with them forever, but this project helps them find a healthy way to cope and make plans for a better future. We are so delighted to be able to give this essential support, thanks to this National Lottery funding, as the need is so great.”

In the Autumn, we made a video with Footprints Women’s Centre, in West Belfast, who received a £299,862 grant, to help local people experiencing food poverty get healthy food at low prices, through their community social supermarket, and take part in development advice programmes to improve their lives.

Catherine Smyth, Footprints Volunteer said: “The door is always open, even if they need any kind of help, they can come in, there is always someone to talk to.

Catherine Smyth, volunteer in the social supermarket at Footprints Women’s Centre

Eileen Cairns, Project Co-Ordinator said: “Footprints themselves, I believe have went above and beyond to make sure the services are still there, and not only there, I feel it has grown.”

Although many groups in centres, halls and churches that normally met across Northern Ireland couldn’t come together, many organisations found different ways to keep in touch and help those they cared about.

Granaghan and District Women’s Group in Swatragh received a £4,040 grant to support local people during COVID-19.

Brigid, Ann and Roisin from Granaghan District Women’s Group, Swatragh, delivering Alice’s Christmas dinner and other goodies

Deirdre Bradley, Chair of the group, said: “Thanks to the funding we were able to provide 100 three-course, hot and nutritious Christmas dinners, plus surprises, to people in our local community.

“It has been a very challenging year for everyone, but this initiative brightened the lives of so many. It also gave them a sense that they were not alone and that their community cares for and values them. Two of the beneficiaries are centenarians – how amazing is that? Our phones have not stopped ringing since the deliveries with people thanking all involved in this big team effort.”

It is the small things that have been making a big difference. We’ve highlighted just a few of the organisations we fund that have stepped up last year. Thank you to all of those who have helped each other and also, a big thank you to National Lottery players who make this work possible, by raising money every week.

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