Skip to content

Sean McGill – Community Support Initiative

November 19, 2018

When Sean McGill’s life hit crisis point, he dug deep and found a reserve of energy and dedication he never knew he had. He credits his years of boxing with giving him the strength to keep going. Now he’s sharing his passion through his new business, Rath Mór Warriors, which teaches kids and adults alike the skills and discipline of boxing.

Sean was able to start his business thanks to support from North West Regional Taxi Proprietors, who are using money raised by National Lottery players to run their Community Support Initiative. North West Taxi Proprietors started 17 years ago as an advice group supporting taxi drivers into employment. Today they’re offering their expertise to people interested in starting their own business in other areas – from hairdressing to mixed martial arts.

For Sean, their advice was a lifeline. From riding high with a £40,000 a year job in finance, a dream home, and a happy personal life, Sean lost everything when the property market crashed. The pressure was too much and his marriage broke down as well.

“We lost the house – even though we’d already paid off a substantial amount,” says Sean who had always kept faith with his boxing, never dreaming that one day he’d be earning a living from his passion.

“Back then 34 was the limit for competing at boxing so I then took up kick boxing and worked my way through the grades to my black belt. It was my sensei who suggested I should teach it, and so I started to make enquiries.

“I found the premises in the Rath Mór Business Park in the city and got initial LEDU funding as it’s regarded as a deprived area. But every day there seemed to be some new challenge involved in running my own business.”

That’s when Sean turned to North West Taxi Proprietors. Last year alone, the organisation gave advice over a thousand times to local people looking to start their own business, and help 20 people into self-employment.

The kickboxing and fitness gym, situated in one of the city’s most economically deprived areas, has been a lifeline for Sean – not to mention the scores of kids and adults who attend classes.

“I’d been concentrating on establishing adult classes but they suggested that for sustainability I should target kids too. And that’s what has made this new venture so personally fulfilling for me,” says Sean.

“Some of the kids have very challenging backgrounds. Some have ADHD, others ADD, and Asperger’s Syndrome.

“We’ve young people who have dropped out of education and their leaders can’t believe they’re the same teenagers when they see them training.  Most rewarding is the fact that they tell me the young people take what they’ve learnt in the gym back into their lives.”

Sean McGill from Rath Mor Warriors with Naomi Coyle (11) . Picture Martin McKeown.

For Sean, kickboxing can teach young people important lessons they can take with them into the rest of their lives.

“I can’t sort out kids’ personal problems but I can hopefully give them life skills to help. By the time they work their way up through their grading belts they have learned not just about the sport but about themselves, about how their behaviour impacts on others, about the rewards they can get from life, and realising that they shouldn’t expect reward as a given.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, North West Taxi Proprietors are able to continue their brilliant work supporting local people into self-employment. For Eamonn O’Donnell, project co-ordinator, the project doesn’t just help individuals.

Sean McGill from Rath Mor Warriors with his son Seán Óg and wife Louise. Picture Martin McKeown.

“Unemployment levels are high in Derry, people can’t find jobs, so they are creating their own,” Eamonn said. “Helping local people start their own businesses gives the local community a boost too, more services are available, and people like to support local businesses.

“Over time these businesses will grow and they will be able to provide opportunities for employment for others. So it’s having a positive effect on the local economy and local people’s lives.”

Meet our team working in the western area

November 15, 2018

Over the past year we have been out of the office more and working in areas across Northern Ireland.  This helps us to ensure that our work is better informed through developing local knowledge and making stronger connections across the region.

Our team have divided up into four geographic areas, so we can work with you, our customers, at a more local level and find out more about what matters to people in your community.  We will be on hand to chat to you about your ideas and support you with your projects that have been developed and shaped by the people you are working with.

Over the next few months we’ll be introducing you to the teams in each area. This month we would like to introduce you to our team working in the Western Area.  This team covers the Mid Ulster, Fermanagh and Omagh council areas.

We have six team members working within the western area supporting our customers; Jenny FitzgeraldColin HowellsHelen HillMichael LiggettOwen Fenton and Bronagh Diamond.  Our western team are supported by co-workers from our Knowledge and Learning, Communications, Business Support and Funding teams.

Our team have been out meeting with groups working in your area; they have been based in community venues providing support to groups who are thinking of applying for funding.  We love to chat to you and welcome conversations about the project ideas your community have developed.  It is fantastic for us to hear how you are building on the strengths and abilities already in your community and using existing resources to order do this.  We can also support you by linking you up with like-minded groups in your area.  You can visit our Facebook page to find out when we will be in your area, so you can pop in for a chat.

You can also contact us if you would like to chat about funding options or discuss your project idea by calling 028 9055 1455.  You can also email our western team directly by clicking on their names above.  We can also help with promoting and publicising your project if your application to us is successful so please do get in touch.

On 6th December, we will be hosting an event in Clogher Valley Community Centre area. We are inviting groups who work in the Augher, Clogher, Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Caledon, Castlecaulfield and Fivemiletown areas to place a bid for £500 of National Lottery Funding for their project idea.  You can get in touch with our team to get an entry form.  Completed entries should be submitted by 19th November. We are also inviting anyone who lives and works in the Clogher Valley area to come along on the 6th December to decide on who gets the funding.  Get in touch with our team to find out how you can get involved in deciding where National Lottery money should go in your local area.

One hundred and eleven projects in your area are currently supported with £10.5m of National Lottery funding.    We currently have three grant programmes open for applications Awards for All, People and Communities and Empowering Young People.

Over the past year, Awards for All has supported fifty groups in the Mid Ulster council area to the value of £449,454 50. Thirty-five groups in the Fermanagh and Omagh council area have also benefited from £310,945 through our popular small grants programme.

Our People and Communities programme is currently supporting eleven projects based in your area to the tune of £2,150,740.  Projects like Community First Aid Responders County Armagh and Tyrone and Mid UIster Volunteer Centre received funding through this programme.

Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Access for Success project have received funding through our Empowering Young People programme, which is currently supporting five projects in your area with just under £2.4m in funding thanks to National Lottery players.

You can find out more about the projects supported in your area, all thanks to National Lottery players, by entering your postcode into the grant search option of our website

People and Communities

November 12, 2018

On October 17th, we announced almost £900,000 of money raised by National Lottery players being used by community groups across Northern Ireland. In case you missed it, here’s a look at some of the incredible groups being funded through Big Lottery Fund’s People and Communities programme.

Down Special Olympics Club is using a £37,350 grant to expand the work they do to new members and volunteers. Member of the club are aged from 14 to over 65 and have a range of learning disabilities. As well as taking part in a whole package of Olympic sports and activities, being part of the group helps members to make friends and build their confidence.

Fintan O’Connor, 39, who has autism, joined seven years ago. Fintan discovered he had a talent for golf when he was 15 and thanks to the support he’s received from the club, he won a gold medal at the All Ireland Special Olympic Games in Dublin in June.

Celine O’Connor, Fintan’s mum, said being part of Down Special Olympics Club has made a huge difference to him.

Celine said: “The social and life opportunities the Special Olympics have brought are so important. Fintan has had experiences which otherwise he probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to tackle.

“For instance, going to the Triple Crown in Dublin was something right out of Fintan’s comfort zone. Then he travelled to the Ireland Special Olympics in June this year with the rest of the team on the train and stayed with them in accommodation at Dublin City University – we were able to give him his independence and stay in a separate hotel.”

Sion Mills & District Carers Support Association also received funding from the People and Communities programme. They’re using £36,000 to support carers from Sion Mills, Victoria Bridge and Castlederg. Caring for a loved one can be exhausting work, and the group offers carers some well-deserved respite. They also give advice on benefits for carers and the people they look after, as well as running first aid and medication training and sessions on healthy eating and fitness, and relaxation techniques.

Bann Maine West Community Cluster is using £82,550 to help older people in Mid and East Antrim come together, learn new skills, and make connections through a series of lunch and learn sessions, learning workshops, and trips to sites of historical interest. They are also holding a celebration event to acknowledge volunteers’ hard work, share learning, and plan for the future.

Greenlight Gateway are supporting people with learning disabilities in the Causeway Coast and Glens area by using £99,250 to help them organise social activities. Activities might include crazy golf, drumming, picnics and concerts – whatever the group’s members prefer! There’ll also be sessions on life skills like money-handling, safety awareness and healthy eating.

In rural communities like Loughgiel, community associations like the Loughgiel Community Association can play an important role in getting people out of the house, building relationships, and getting together to support each other. Continuing from decades of work in their community, now they’re using £197,619 to run health and wellbeing, fitness, and skills sessions for local people to build skills, develop a sense of community spirit, and bring people together.

Shopmobility Mid Ulster is using £198,813 to help people with limited mobility get out and about in their local community. They’re part of a network of Shopmobility schemes that lend mobility equipment to its members on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Demand has only increased since the group established in 2010, and now with the help of National Lottery funding the group is expanding to meet the needs of people in Coalisland, Moneymore, Stewartstown, Pomeroy, Fivemiletown, and Clogher, as well as improving the services already offered in Cookstown and Dungannon.

In Co. Down, Home-Start Down District are using £199,947 of money raised by National Lottery players to help families facing serious difficulties, from stress, isolation and mental illness to children with disabilities or additional or complex needs. Home-Start Down District works with those families who need a little more support to stop issues from escalating – they give families the help they need to tackle their difficulties before they get too overwhelming. Parents will be able to learn new skills and get support from other families like theirs, as well as having access to a family support worker, parent volunteers, a family support group and a parent programme.

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.

The Change Something Fund – Tina’s Story

November 5, 2018

Young people living in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area have just two days left to apply to The Change Something Fund.

A total of £100,000 is available through grants of £200 to £3000 for young people aged 13 -24 living who want to change something in their community. The programme is being managed by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s Acorn Fund and is funded by Big Lottery Fund and Derry and Strabane District Council.

The deadline to apply is 5pm this Wednesday (7th November 2018) and young people will need the support of a host organisation like a community group, a school or a club to apply.

Tina Curtis (17) is a young woman who is making positive changes in her community and in her own life. She has turned the page on her past anti-social behaviour and credits the support of a National Lottery funded youth project that is helping her to make the changes she wants.

After leaving school, Tina started to get involved with anti-social behaviour, and got into trouble with the police. But meeting a youth worker from Off the Streets Community Youth one evening was a real breakthrough – and now she’s turned her life around and is helping to organise activities that are benefitting the whole community.

Following that conversation, she joined Off the Streets Community Youth’s FATE Project (Future Aspirations Transformed Everyday), which is supported with a Big Lottery Fund grant of £600,000. It offers young people in the Greater Shantallow area a safe place where they can meet up and get involved in activities that will help change things for both themselves and their community for the better.

Tina said: “I knew myself that I had to change and I thought I would like to bring something back to the community and work alongside Off the Street to help that.

“I felt nervous at the start, but then I thought it’s going to make a positive change to me and the community, so I felt relieved then.”

Tina got involved in the project’s mentoring programme, and from there she went on to the youth planning committee and do other skills development. The new skills that Tina is learning are improving her confidence, and this is spurring her on to help her community and to create a more positive perception of young people.

Earlier this year, Tina put her learning into action by helping to organise a family fun day event in Greater Shantallow to help bring the community together. It was a great success with more than 300 people turning up.

“It was really down to us. We had Off the Street to help us but we had to plan everything and publicise it. We all had our own individual roles, but we worked as a team, too,” Tina said.

The first family fun day was so popular that they’ve held others since, and each time the young people take on different roles on the day so everyone gets a chance to develop their skills.

Tina has now returned to education and is studying childcare at North West Regional College, something that she didn’t imagine happening last year.

Tina said: “My confidence has definitely been boosted. I wasn’t going to go back to education but they gave me the motivation to help me sign up for tech.”

She has recently started a leadership course, and being involved in the Tools group helps her to find out about training opportunities and other skills that go towards finding employment, such as CV writing.

Tina’s advice to any young person who wants to change is to join a youth group. She said: “If you have support, take it because it’s definitely going to change you.

“Now that I can see myself that I’m changing, other people can see that I’ve changed, too. It makes me feel like a better person.”


For more information and to apply visit: 

 If you have any questions or need support please contact:

Acorn Fund Grants Team on 028 9024 5927

Acorn Fund Officer Shauna Kelpie on 028 7137 1547 or


The Change Something Fund – Xavier’s Story

November 2, 2018

One week left to apply for The Change Something Fund

Young people living in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area have until 7th November 2018 to apply to The Change Something Fund.

A total of £100,000 is available through grants of £200 to £3000 for young people aged 13 -24 living who want to change something in their community. The programme is being managed by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s Acorn Fund and is funded by Big Lottery Fund and Derry and Strabane District Council.

The Change Something Fund is supporting young people like Xavier Beardwood (17) from Derry/Londonderry who want to make a real change to their communities. Xavier is transgender and after struggling to feel accepted at school he is working with OUTNorth West to change things so that members of the LGBTQ+ community will be understood by the wider community.

LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Queer and Questioning and the + sign is other identities – such as intersex and non-binary.

Xavier is sharing his experiences to encourage other young people to apply for funding to make a difference in their community.

Xavier said: “I was 12 years old when I first came out. I changed my gender from female to male and changed my name to Xavier. It took me a long time to get the confidence to do that and it was really hard to tell my family but they have been very supportive. I feel I can be myself now, which is definitely less stressful.

“I used to go to an all-girls school but I was always different, I wasn’t girly like the rest of them. Some people assumed I was a lesbian and they made transphobic and homophobic comments to me. I never felt comfortable there, I didn’t even feel like I could talk to the teachers about the way I was feeling.

“I moved to a new school to do my A Levels. They were really welcoming and understanding, they call me by my new name and let me wear trousers – it’s been a brilliant change for me.”

Xavier found support outside of school through the Rainbow Health project. He joined their youth group four years ago and he’s now on the management committee for their OUT North West project. Last year the project received almost £500,000 of money raised by National Lottery players from Big Lottery Fund.


“It’s been great being part of Rainbow Health project where everyone accepts me for who I am and they understand the difficulties I’ve gone through. In OUTNorth West I’m working with other young people to change people’s attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people, particularly in education, community and healthcare services where many of us have had bad experiences.

“I think it is important to change attitudes and make schools, colleges, GP surgeries and other places more inclusive and supportive towards LGBT people. This can be done by simply giving the correct advice. There is a lot of information available online, but people can get a lot of misconceptions from online resources – especially social media.

“I want to use my own experiences to help create an informative resource that will provide answers for the more difficult questions people may ask, such as questions about surgery or the legalities of changing your name and your gender, as well as bring attention to the lesser known identities within the LGBTQ+ community (such as intersexual, pansexual, asexual and aromantic).

“We have the information we need and we are now deciding what format it will be in. I’m really excited to see the end product.

“I would tell other young people that you don’t have to ‘put up with’ anything that bothers you – you deserve better and have the power to change something.”

Young people interested in applying for funding will need the support of a host organisation like a community group, a school or a club.

Panels of young people living in the local area will then decide which projects are successful.


For more information and to apply visit