Women from across Ards & North Down and the Peninsula assembled in the sumptuous surroundings of Orangetree House in Greyabbey, to celebrate the success and achievement of the multiple projects and programmes delivered by Kilcooley Women’s Centre during the 2018-19 academic year. The cross-community and good relations event, celebrated achievements made during the year. Over 1400 women have been supported in education and training programmes, workshops, networking and social events. Over 300 local children to benefit from the innovative child development and childcare projects, whilst their mothers / carers avail of KWC programmes.
Alison Blayney, Director of the Centre paid tribute to the participants whose success had made an impact on 2018-19. She thanked the NI Housing Executive who had supported the event and the centre throughout the year, including supporting their ongoing transition to The Inspire Group of Social Businesses, Ards North Down Women & Centres Network and the development of the Square 1. Gus Moore , from the Executive Community Cohesion Unit presented ‘Community Cohesion Award’ to Jean Lecky a resident of Kilcooley who had dedicated her time to volunteering and encouraging residents to get involved in community activity through the Kilcooley over 50s Group. Alison also thanked the many funders who have supported the projects including Department for Communities, NI Housing Executive, Public Health Agency, Department for Foreign Affairs, Ards North Down Borough Council, Children in Need, Department of Education (NI), Early Years Pathways Fund, TEO, International Fund for Ireland and Cash for Kids.
Ladybirds the only community based pre-pre nursery in Bangor which offers social support for children and their carers for social / educational programmes and to help women transition back to the workplace. The childcare team, led by Tracy Harrison used the event to outline the plans the Childcare team have for the future and the expansion into afterschools clubs, social enterprise and breakfast club. Tracy thanked Ards North Down Borough Council for developing the Summer Scheme Partnership with the centre, which will see the second year of the community-council consortium deliver quality summer play activity for the 5-11 age group for 100 children. This delivery will now be mainstreamed into the centres comprehensive health and wellbeing programmes, which aims to help local people keep healthy, have access to preventative information and the opportunity to take part in physical and mental health programmes locally.
The key note speaker for the evening was Diane Dodds , who addressed the women hailing from Holywood, Bangor, Newtownards, Ballywalter and Portaferry.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds has commended women involved in a range of academic, vocational and social initiatives provided by Kilcooley Women’s Centre on their achievements and contributions to the local community over the past year
Commenting as the guest speaker at the Centre’s annual graduation ceremony in Greyabbey, Mrs Dodds said:
‘‘It was an honour to be the guest speaker at this annual graduation ceremony for women enrolled on courses operated by Kilcooley Women’s Centre.
The Centre leads a valuable and transformative work, giving many women better prospects through the opportunity to achieve new educational and vocational qualifications. It also encourages those at the fringes to get involved in a range of social initiatives like horticulture, dedicated older women’s programmes and volunteering opportunities.
Alison and her team also focus on parental support, offering childcare services and early years programmes which in turn allow mothers to take a fuller and more active role in society. This work is to be commended as is the Centre’s spearheading role in drawing down European funding through their Erasmus + projects.
I want to congratulate all recipients of awards on their success and wish them every blessing for the next chapter in their lives. I would also like to publicly thank the team of Kilcooley Women’s Centre for the award presented to me on account of my work as a champion of their efforts in the European Parliament. It is an honour to serve the people of Northern Ireland and I will continue to promote the skills and needs of local women right across our Province, including in the wider Ards and North Down area.’’
The annual event recognises achievement and civic participation in the fields of adult education & training, employability, ICT, GCSEs vocational education, health and wellbeing, young women’s project, therapeutic horticulture, older women’s programmes, holiday and travel club, volunteering and leadership, peace & reconciliation, good relations, community and active civic participation. The centre also focuses on parental and family support, early years programmes and childcare to help every child get the best start in life through innovative developmental programmes. The centre is also one of the leading European Transnational Partnerships in Northern Ireland, where they mentor and share good practice with community organisations across Europe including Greece, Slovakia, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Romania, England, Austria, Estonia, Finland, Turkey, Bulgaria, Spain and Italy. Alison Blayney, Centre Manager stated Kilcooley has truly gone global. 24 years of community development which has been practiced in areas like Kilcooley and across Northern Ireland is now seen as exemplar and organisations are keen to come and learn how it’s done in Northern Ireland.
“Kilcooley Womens Centre Erasmus+ project, Innovative Quality Mentoring for Social Inclusion project , looks to teach people how to be effective mentors that are able to support those most at risk of social exclusion in their local communities. Many of those that took part in the project had started their own journeys into mentoring from a socially isolated situation.” explained Lynne Bloomfield, Head of Business Services and Corporate Development at Kilcooley Women’s Centre.
“We have now grown to become an education centre working with unemployed and economically inactive people to help improve their employment prospects through one-to-one mentoring, peer support and skills-based training.
“Through our work, we realised there was a real need for mentors to support people in the local area and this was the inspiration for our community mentoring project,” Lynne said.
This year, the centre had celebrated over 24 of years service delivery to the local community and the event recognised the range of participants from across the Borough who had engaged in programmes to improve their working or family life. Emma Mooney, Head of the Education & Training team launched the September timetable at the event, which will introduce a comprehensive ‘European Social Fund’ project, funded by the Department for the Economy (NI).
Full range of courses is now available on the organisational website www.kilcooleywomenscentre.co.uk or on the groups Facebook or Twitter page.
Further information available from the centre on 02891478292