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Oasis Caring in Action

August 6, 2018

Paige Floyd, from Antrim, started life in care until she was adopted as a toddler. But those three years left an impact. She struggled with her behaviour, and when her adopted mum Rosemary was diagnosed with cancer, Paige found it hard to cope.

But, thanks to National Lottery players, Oasis Caring in Action were on hand to help. With the support of £600,000 of National Lottery funding, their Antrim Youthways project provides an alternative education programme for young people aged 12-19 who are facing all sorts of issues that affect their education, from bereavement and bullying to caring responsibilities and eating disorders.

Secondary school is a difficult time for any teenager. But Paige’s history of being in care made it particularly hard for her to manage her behaviour. Then, when her beloved mum Rosemary was diagnosed with lung cancer, the pressure became too much. Paige had to return to care temporarily, and the stress and disruption had a big impact on her education.

“In secondary school, I was really troubled and quite difficult. I had bottled everything up from my past and it became too much to handle. I became angry and felt like everyone was against me. My behaviour was out of control,” Paige said.

Paige’s parents divorced some years earlier and she continued to live with her mum. When her mum was diagnosed with lung cancer, Paige was terrified she was going to lose her.

“I was trying to keep my mum happy. I was getting myself up in the mornings then helping my mum get dressed and get breakfast. Some nights I hardly slept because I was constantly worrying about her and worrying that I would have to go back into care as well, because there is only my mum and me.”

While her mum was ill, Paige did have to return to care temporarily. She was living in a foster home when her teachers advised her to go to Oasis Caring in Action. There she received the support she needed to get back on track with her education including one to one and group support.

“The first year, I had some ups and downs but the staff at Oasis saw potential in me. I decided to put my head down and work well in my classes there. I developed a bond with my key worker, Jenny and I have a lot of respect for her. I worked hard and came out with good qualifications,” Paige said.

With support from Oasis, Paige gained seven GCSE equivalents and has earned three more since. A keen footballer, she went on to study for a Sports Studies Diploma at the North Eastern Regional College in Antrim.

Rosemary’s cancer went into remission and the support they both got from Oasis helped them to build up their relationship again. Paige moved back home with renewed hope for the future. She is now training as a young leader at Oasis, helping out on the Antrim Youthways project.

Paige said: “I love working with the younger people coming through Oasis. Some of them look up to me because I have come so far. I explain to them how it was with me and they find that very inspirational. I am excited about my future for the first time, and I am so proud at this moment in my life.

“My mum is over the moon for me too. I’m learning to drive and if and when I pass my driving test I’ll be taking the Oasis staff out and treating them. I feel like they’re part of my family now.”

Thanks to the support and dedication of Oasis staff, Paige has become a successful young woman and a great example to other young people. And, thanks to National Lottery players, Oasis are able to continue their incredible work, making a real difference to young people’s lives.

Our funding in Northern Ireland

August 2, 2018

We believe people should be in the lead when improving their lives and communities. Our approach focuses on the skills and energy communities already have and the potential in their ideas. We are asking what matters to communities, not what’s the matter with them.

We are interested in ideas that:

  • Involve people right from the start – we want them to be involved in the development, design and delivery of a project.
  • Bring people together, strengthening relationships in and across communities.
  • Encourage people and organisations to work together to make a difference in their community.

We do this through:

  • Funding grassroots projects that bring people and communities together.
  • Asking groups to contact us early on so we can give honest feedback on whether it’s the right programme for them and provide advice and support.
  • Offering a range of flexible funding and support.
  • Helping organisations to share learning.

What funding is available?

Awards for All

  • Funding of between £300 – £10,000 for projects lasting 12 months or fewer.
  • All voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations, and public sector organisations are eligible to apply.
  • There’s no deadline – groups can apply any time.
  • Funding for projects that bring local people together to make positive change in their community.
  • If you have received funding under Awards for All within the last two years, your application will have lower priority than applications from groups who have not.
  • We will try to get back to you with the result of your application within 6 to 8 weeks, but this might take longer during busier periods.


People and Communities

  • Funding of between £30,000 – £500,000 for projects lasting between 2 and 5 years.
  • All voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations are eligible to apply.
  • There is no deadline – groups can apply any time.
  • The people who benefit from your programme will be involved meaningfully in the development, design and delivery of your project.
  • Your project will build on the skills, assets and energy of the people in the community with whom you will be working, and helps them to develop their ideas.
  • You need to show that you have a good understanding of other groups and organisations in your area who are offering similar services, and show us how your work complements theirs.


Empowering Young People

  • Funding of between £30,000 – £500,000 for projects lasting between 2 and 5 years which particular target young people aged 8 – 25 years old.
  • All voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations are eligible to apply.
  • For deadlines, please see the programme webpage at the link above.
  • Your project will do one or more of the following: help more young people to learn skills they will need in the future; build relationships with their support networks and communities; have improved health and well-being.
  • Young people must be involved in the planning and delivery of the project. Their support networks and communities need to be involved too.


We’d like to talk to you about your ideas.

Get in touch with us early on and we can give you advice about the best programme for your project. Give us a call on 028 9055 1455 or email us at

Bogside & Brandywell Health Forum

July 30, 2018

To celebrate this year’s International Day of Friendship, we’re shining a light on how money raised by National Lottery players is being used to help isolated people combat loneliness and nurture meaningful friendships.

Just last month Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum received more than £3 million of National Lottery funding to run an innovative project to support patients whose health is directly affected by social isolation. The three-year project is for adults across Northern Ireland and works in partnership with the Healthy Living Centre Alliance and the five health and social care trusts. The funding is also being used to deliver a similar project in Scotland.

Seamus Ward, general manager of Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum explained how the project will work. “Social prescribing acts as a link between the health service and the community and provides care and support for people that goes beyond medication.

“For example, for people who are lonely or isolated, there is no medical intervention which can help with this, but being part of your community, going to clubs, being engaged with things you enjoy, can help.”

Derry woman Ena Kerr, 77, regularly attended her GP surgery until she was referred to the pilot project in January. She is now attending local classes every week in her community and has only visited the GP once since then.

“I’ve a number of long term health conditions – diabetes, degeneration of the spine and angina – but when I was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago I really went on a downward spiral. I was diagnosed with cancer twice and was lucky that on both occasions they were caught early so I didn’t have to have chemotherapy, but having surgery twice was a big thing to process and it was very hard mentally.

Ena Kerr with Mary Campbell, David Doherty, Coach, Tony Lynch, Phillip Crossan, John Hegarty, Trevor McNulty, David Canning and Pat Bell

“I was a regular at my GP, it was one of my only motivations to get out – the GP, the chemist and the food shop. The more time I spent in the house, the more isolated I felt and the lower I sank, the less I wanted to talk to people so I stopped contacting my friends.

“To help me feel less lonely and get me active my GP recommended that I get involved with some classes provided by Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum. I was unsure but I thought I’d give it a go.

“It’s now the highlight of my week. My confidence has grown so much and it’s all thanks to my GP referring me to this project. Not only am I happier and more confident, but my health is improving too. My blood sugar levels are better and I’m in less pain. I haven’t been going to the doctor as much and I feel so inspired that I’m doing exercises at home now too.

Ena Kerr with her dog Daisy and daughter Lynda Meenan

“I lost my cheekiness for a while, but I’m feeling like myself again and I have my spark back. I’m feeling younger and although I still have lows, I’m not hiding away as I much.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, this project takes the pressure off GPs and builds on the existing strengths of the patients’ community to improve people’s lives. As well as having an enormous impact on mental health and well-being, examples like Ena’s show that social prescribing can have a real and measurable effect on a patient’s physical health.


International Day of Friendship

July 30, 2018

This Monday was International Day of Friendship. To mark the occasion, we’re looking back on some of the brilliant groups in Northern Ireland who are using money raised by National Lottery players to build relationships, tackle isolation, and nourish friendships between all types of people.

Roberta Dallas, 65, was a single mum with health problems who became increasingly isolated after her son left home. But she was given a new lease of life through her involvement with the Mid Ulster Volunteer Centre’s Carefully Yours programme.

Roberta worked as a teacher in Magherafelt and raised her son, Robert, with only the support of her beloved dad. Roberta’s father sadly died when Robert was in lower sixth, and when Robert moved to England for university the following year Roberta found herself increasingly isolated. But it was only when she retired that she felt truly lonely.

“I discovered for the first time that I didn’t have anyone,” added Roberta. “Originally I just pottered about home and my days had no real structure. And the more I stayed at home the lonelier and more trapped in my own habits I became.”

That was until a Carefully Yours project worker from the Mid Ulster Volunteer Centre invited Roberta along to their crochet group.

From that point on Roberta didn’t look back. She joined a variety of classes and groups including the drop in centre where she joined people with learning disabilities.

“I found it gave me something that I wasn’t getting any other way in my life. It gave me friends,” said Roberta. “The people I’ve met at the drop in centre have taught me a different way of living. We play board games and have a bit of craic together and it’s just being with people for the sheer enjoyment of it.”

The Carefully Yours project has made a profound and powerful difference to Roberta’s life thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players.

“Through MUVC I have a completely new group of friends I wouldn’t have come across otherwise, and that’s true of all of us,” say Roberta. “We are all either single or widowed or otherwise on our own. With MUVC, we are friends in the group and outside of the group and I wish I had met them earlier in life.”

Like Roberta, Harriet Mills struggled with isolation and loneliness – but found refuge and friendship in Newington Day Centre.

Harriet Mills first came into contact with Newington Day Centre when her husband was referred to the centre for day care.  “My husband Eddie had severe arthritis and Alzheimer’s and because of this I couldn’t get out at all.  So it could be months and I would just be in the house and dependent on people bringing things in.”

Newington Day Centre uses money raised by National Lottery players to help older people remain in their own homes, and is using the funding to reach more isolated older people and offer activities to get them involved in their community.

Harriet went on to say, “Eddie and I loved the garden so when they started the gardening club at Newington Eddie got involved with that, it kept his interest and he brought me home plants which we planted together and it was just wonderful. It was 2 years that we had together that we wouldn’t have had, 2 years of good time and time to do normal things out in the garden, it just was wonderful.”

Sadly Harriet’s beloved husband Eddie died in October 2014, but she has is still involved with Newington.

“I still do the gardening club that Eddie loved. I was also involved in the Life Story books for Eddie.  It was bittersweet as I had to go through lots of old photos and the timing wasn’t great but I have this wonderful Life Story book now. It was really lovely and the family loved it.  I thought it would be difficult to go back but I gradually started volunteering and I am getting a great lot out of it.  I’ve made great friends and it just didn’t stop with Eddie.”

Margaret McCrudden, Centre Manager, summed up Newington Day Centre: ““An overall community effect is what I think care in the community is all about.   It’s about people helping each other.  Loneliness can become a vicious circle. All our activities brighten their mood and make life easier, even for the carers at home.

“We are user led and do our best to respond to what the members want, whether it is through our monthly meeting, or me just sitting and having a chat. I really feel we are at the heart of the community.”

North Belfast Men’s Shed was started back in 2012 as a way to bring older men together and tackle social isolation. Using money raised by National Lottery players, the project supports older men to get involved in community activities and take up volunteering.

The project is led by its participants. A team of over 50 men are involved in the day-to-day running of the Shed on a volunteer basis and other men volunteer to share their skills and welcome new members.

One member described it like the impact this welcome can make: “We meet people and show them round – for some men they might find it difficult to take the first step to come through the door. Once they’re here they have no difficulty getting involved in everything that goes on here.”

Another member explains: “People assist and help each other: if someone has a bit of experience, they pass this on to others in the shed and I’m not just talking about skills, but life experiences also.”

Older men can sometimes struggle to get involved in their local community, and are often less likely to volunteer than other demographics. North Belfast Men’s Shed challenges that trend by helping men to volunteer in other organisations as well as their own.

For example, Shed members have volunteered their time to make squirrel boxes for the Ulster Wildlife Foundation; bird boxes for Belfast Hills Partnership; buddy benches for local schools; delivered craft classes to members of Newington Day Centre; and made around 200 lanterns for PIPS charity World Suicide Awareness Day.

As well as bringing the men’s skills and expertise to the wider community, North Belfast Men’s Shed also plays a big part in helping the men make new friends and combatting isolation and loneliness.

“The Men’s Shed has brought me into contact with others whom I would not have otherwise met,” says one member. “I so look forward to the activities but most of all the camaraderie. Friendships formed in the Shed are developing outside the shed in other fields. The North Belfast Men’s Shed has been an invigorating experience on my recovery from major heart surgery.”

These groups – and so many others – demonstrate the profound impact that friendship can have. With a strong network of friends, people are better able to cope with difficult times in their lives. With the support of money raised by National Lottery players, groups like Belfast Men’s Shed, Newington Day Centre and Mid-Ulster Volunteer Centre are able bring people together to build deep and meaningful relationships, increasing resilience, and improving quality of life for everyone involved.



July 23, 2018

Many of the groups we fund are run in part or entirely by volunteers. Their dedication means that groups are able to put more of their funding towards the incredible work they’re doing for their communities. But as well as being a great way of supporting a cause you care about, volunteering can also have a profound, positive impact on the volunteers themselves.

When Toomebridge mum Geraldine McCoy was diagnosed with a severe mental illness at the age of 32, she had to give up her career and struggled to control her condition while balancing family life. Now 49, Geraldine finally feels like she has control of her disorder. What’s more, she has worked hard to have a positive role in the community again – thanks to volunteering with local development group TIDAL.

Geraldine, who used to work as a teacher, is part of the one percent of the population who will experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. People with bipolar disorder experience a rollercoaster of emotions which has a huge impact on their lives and their family and friends. There is still a lot of misunderstanding and stigma surrounding bipolar and Geraldine is very enthusiastic about the difference talking about mental health can have.

As is often the case, Geraldine’s illness went un-diagnosed for many years. As a younger woman Geraldine had been a confident person, with a talent for sports. But as she juggled her busy work and family life, it became clear that something was wrong in her early thirties.

Geraldine said: “I couldn’t see it at the time, but in hindsight it all started after my fourth child was born. I had four children under the age of five and I was very happy, I loved being a mother, but I started to get very energized, almost hyper and I felt like I could succeed at anything which meant my ideas became too big, too quick.”

When Geraldine eventually received the devastating news that she had bipolar disorder, she fell into deeper depression and had to give up work. Her illness also meant she had to give up playing and coaching Camogie – one of her other great passions.

“At the time it was very difficult. I didn’t really understand what was happening to me and I didn’t have very good coping mechanisms. I had highs and suffered long periods of depression, I felt unmotivated, and I couldn’t do things as well as I used to – even making simple decisions like what to buy in the supermarket for dinner became a huge task.

“I think the children were very resilient, they knew I loved them but there were times when I wasn’t able to communicate that to them. Now my children would ask me how I’m getting on, give me a hug and tell me I was doing a great job because they know I’m not feeling great all the time.

“My husband Kevin has been a great support, I couldn’t have gotten through it without him and he provided stability for me and the kids. They are all doing very well in their lives, I’m extremely proud of them and they are proud of me.”

But despite strong relationships with her family and friends, Geraldine had been used to being busy working, and felt something was missing. So, two years ago she got involved with TIDAL, which stands for Toomebridge Industrial Development Amenities and Leisure. She started helping out in the office and now volunteers in the garden and crafting area. The experience is helping to improve her mental health and allowing her to use her teaching skills again.

“I’m 49 now and this is the first time my bi-polar has been easing. My mood will still go up and down and my bad days can last for months but I don’t go as deeply into my depression as I used to. Being committed to TIDAL has stopped me from going into my usual pattern of isolating myself. Now when I’m depressed I will push myself to get out of the house and I come to the TIDAL garden – I can still have my own space and not talk to anyone if I don’t feel like it – but the important thing is that I’m out of the house and I’ve got people around me if I need them, and I’m doing something productive. If other people can experience this at TIDAL too then we are changing lives.”

Thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, TIDAL are able to continue their fantastic work improving and supporting their local community – including their volunteers.