SIXTEEN years of planning and development for a local community group has paid off with the opening of a new state-of-the-art community health building in Strabane.
Strabane Health Improvement Project (SHIP) – located in Ballycolman – officially cut the ribbon on the new facility at a special event last Tuesday where Mayor Michaela Boyle and Tracy Meharg, permanent secretary for the Department for Communities (DfC), were present along with other community representatives and funders.
The new facility was funded to the tune of £292,000 by DfC and includes offices, a meeting room, counselling room, kitchen and toilet areas and large communal meeting room for the benefit of people in the area.
This new building will enable SHIP to expand the existing programme delivering new innovative programmes.
The additional rooms will enable the group to deliver workshops/activities/programmes housing a maximum of 25 people within the building at any given time. It will also create additional space and privacy for counselling services.
Jarlath McNulty, project officer, told the event: “For our organisation the concept of developing a localised community health and wellbeing facilities started back in 2002. At this time we were involved in developing programmes for men living on their own and through contact with their families we realised that there was a need for development of wider community health programmes.
“In 2006 we were successful in getting funding for the development of a small pilot project which saw our organisation erect a small 20ft poly tunnel. From this project we quickly established the need for a larger programme.”
In 2008 the project then secured the lease of the land at its current site from the then Strabane District Council.
Mr McNulty continued: “This allowed us to develop and expand the range of new community health programmes for the community and to build a solid base for the future development of this project.
“But it was in 2016 when we received funding from the National Lottery that our project moved to a new phase of development. This funding allowed for full-time staffing of the project and supported the development of a new strategy for the project. It was at this time that we first contacted the Department for Communities to support the development of a new community building.
“With the successful completion of this new building the challenge for our project now is to make sure that the most important aspect of our development - ‘the community’ – now utilise this new facility and we believe this can only be done in partnership with other statutory, community and voluntary organisations. Over the coming months and years we as an organisation are looking forward to the development of these new partnerships.”
SHIP chairperson, John Falconer said the project directors are delighted with the completion of the building.
“This new modular Community Health Building will have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of the communities of Strabane town.
“It will provide our project with a purpose built building from which we will develop a range of new community partnership programmes that will complement existing health and wellbeing programmes already being developed within the Strabane area,” he said.
Also speaking at the launch, DfC permanent secretary Tracy Meharg added: “This project will complement the investment from the Big Lottery and other projects funded by the department in this area.
“It demonstrates not only collaborative working but our ongoing commitment to target those communities throughout Northern Ireland who are suffering from higher than average rates of unemployment, ill health, lower levels of educational attainment and higher rates of income deprivation.
“This project is a much needed and welcome boost for the people of Strabane and will improve social conditions for the people who live in the most deprived neighbourhoods, through better coordinated public services and the creation of safer environments.”