Blog Post- Learning on your door step ... A participant’s view from our latest Community Safety Trip
We travelled from Lurgan to West Belfast at the beginning of June, and kicked off our visit at St Comgall’s, (Lower Falls) Mary McArdle and Stevie Corr from the Falls Community Council gave an overview of the area and the specific issues arising which have changed an evolved over the years. We got the opportunity to talk with youth leaders in the area, who spoke about drug use, mental health, adverse childhood experiences and trauma being the predominant issues they are presented with. We spoke to Lisa, an on the ground community activist, whose work is devoted to keeping young people safe and trying to prevent youths coming to the attention of or become involved in armed gangs. It was inspiring to see a strong group of individuals working tirelessly for the betterment of their local area, and WOW did that hard work pay off! We got a tour of the former school and seen first hand the transformation following significant lobbying and investment to create a wonderful multi-use community hub.
Our next stop was the Upper Springfield Road, again we got an understanding of the challenges in the area, and also how they have been faced, for example, the diversionary measures put in place around contentious issues, such as the Feile an Phobail event, where young adults get free tickets to attend events at one of Ireland’s largest community arts festivals. I was fascinated to hear that by doing so this helps to steer youth away from engaging in anti-community behaviour. A special thanks to Aisling Heath and Cillian McGivern who spoke passionately about community development and safety.
Lastly, we visited Sally Gardens, (Poleglass) and Footprints, the Women’s Centre, both visits highlighted the amount of work that goes into running such successful projects and the benefit of this to the people using the facilities.
On reflection many of the issues faced by the community in West Belfast are similar to what we see in Lurgan and Craigavon. As a community worker, I often feel overwhelmed at the scale of the issue around mental health and drug use. However, this trip changed my perspective around this, isn’t it funny how a 30-minute drive away helped to shift my outlook? I now know what people mean when they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, we spoke to individuals who had dedicated most of their lives to improving their community, campaigning, lobbying and taking small steps at a time. Working in partnership and patience seem to be the best advice, sometimes it’s all about the baby steps and we are in this together.