Strabane Health Improvement Project to distribute 1,000 items in community outreach projects

THE coronavirus pandemic has meant many groups and organisations have had to be creative when it comes to utilising their funding.

For the best part of a year, activities and events which would ordinarily have been run have been put on hold.

But determined to ensure that the local community gets the support they need during these challenging times, groups are having to come up with innovative ideas.

At Strabane Health Improvement Project (SHIP) - based in the Ballycolman Estate - around 1,000 items will be delivered out into the community in the coming weeks to keep both the older and younger generations busy during the lockdown restrictions.

"We are running almost 11 programmes," Jarlath McNulty, SHIP project manager explained.

"Most organisations, due to the restrictions, would have activity programmes that are in shortfall.

"We couldn't get out, we couldn't meet people so we have had to be creative.

"We started to engage with people in local community groups and schools and asked them what they wanted and now we have come up with a range of different initiatives.

"The feedback that we had been getting from people was that they were asking us if we had any programmes running, specifically for their children to do at home."

This week will see 300 mindfulness packs going out as part of a project with St Catherine's Primary School in the town.

The packs are made up glow sticks, a mosaic rainbow, a 'breathing buddy' duck, a snow globe, a craft mirror and breathing exercise.

"They are support packs containing various activities to help support the children with their mindfulness during these times when they are out of school and out of their daily routines.

"Lockdown has been difficult for the young children and they find it hard to understand, so it's all about helping them focus on their mindfulness," Jarlath continued.

SHIP also have 200 worry dolls to be distributed to local children, as well as 200 activity packs for children to make their own with their family.

Thirty kids arts and crafts sets will also be distributed while for the older generation, 30 quilling sets will be available.

Jarlath added: "We also have 30 intergenerational packs going out for families and that's about getting them talking, engaging and breaking down barriers.

"Elsewhere, there is an Active Citizen Through Sport initiative. We were able to purchase ten fishing sets which we are going to give out to people within the community who want to take up fishing or who want to take it back up again after years of not being able to do it."

Alongside all of this, a number of online programmes are ongoing including yoga, slow cooking, aromatherapy and True Life Transformation, while around 60 home herb kits will also be available shortly.

"We are talking just under £10,000 worth of support going out into the community over the next three weeks and it is all underpinning the importance of mental health, mindfulness and keeping active," Jarlath said.

"We can't get out so we are bringing the programmes to people.

"Because of the year that's been, being in and out of lockdown has been hard for people and we've tried to be creative to engage with people and their needs.

"We wanted to programme events in February and March and hopefully if all goes well, at the end of March when lockdown eases and now with the vaccine, people will gradually start going back to social interaction."

Jarlath also expressed his thanks to the funders who have enabled the roll-out of the programmes.

"The funding for all these programmes is from the National Lottery," he said. "I have to say, they have been very, very supportive of the initiatives.

"A lot of the funders are really stepping up, as best they can, to support communities during this really challenging time.

"There is no shortage of support from the funders and actually, what we find is that groups just need to be innovative."

Keep an eye on Strabane Health Improvement Project's Facebook for more details on the initiatives being rolled-out or contact them on 02871 383557.

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