£2m National Lottery Funding For Community Groups

Support groups for cancer patients and people with disabilities are among those set to benefit from £2 million National Lottery Community funding.

Some 46 local initiatives have been awarded grants of between £500 to £500,000.

Among these are support services for children with cancer, initiatives that help those with disabilities gain some independence in their life and projects that run events for their local community.

Anahilt Primary School PTA is one of the groups set to benefit. It will use its £9,744 grant to buy 15 laptops to deliver IT training to the school and wider community.

The Leafair Community Association empowers people of all ages to lead fuller, healthier lives. Hailed as a "lifeline" in the L'Derry area, it received a £361,900 grant to develop 'MALE', a learning and engagement programme for men in the community.

The MALE scheme will introduce isolated and disengaged men in a wide range of social, learning, economic and cultural activities. The money will also help establish a Volunteer Shed as well as hosting employability training and taster sessions to increase skills and address confidence, loneliness and well-being issues among its participants.

Peter McDonald, Manager of Leafair Community Association said: "We often find that men retreat to their homes and don't want to admit they are suffering, thinking it's better to just keep everything to themselves but this can have really bad repercussions.

"At Leafair, health and well-being are our priority and this National Lottery funding will make a huge difference. The MALE project will get local men engaged in activities, whether its sporting, woodwork or volunteering within the community, to prove that there is more to life than staring out your window.
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"Leafair offers these men the support they need to live fuller, happier lives. We have men coming from all backgrounds whether it's depression, mental health, addiction issues or marriage breakdowns. This group gives them a sense of belonging, a safe place where they can engage with other men who are going through similar situations, and a chance to open up and talk."

Leafair's service has been life-saving for two local men. It was through a health check MOT, offered twice a year by the project, that Gerry McLaughlin discovered he had early stage prostate cancer, a devastating blow to the 65-year-old.

But ever since his diagnosis, he has praised the group for "saving his life" and being a constant source of support.

"A cancer diagnosis is a very difficult thing to go through and Leafair has been a tremendous help for my mental well-being ever since finding out," Mr McClaughlin said. "I've struggled with my mental health before and this group has been amazing at helping me through that.

"I enjoy every day I come in because there's no pressure here and there's activities to suit everyone. If I wasn't going along to the group, I would be sitting in the house overthinking everything and my depression would only be getting worse and worse."

The funding boost was welcomed by Leafair member Christy Brown who said he is delighted after seeing first hand the huge benefits it offers for local men.

"The best thing that ever happened me was joining Leafair, they carried me through my journey and helped keep my mind occupied. If I wasn't coming to the group every day I'd be sitting in my house thinking about what tablets I need to take and focusing on all the negatives."

He praises Leafair for being a lifeline for local people when they are most in need of it and said the funding will support them in having an even bigger impact in the area.

Kate Beggs, The National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland Director, commented: "Our experience of working with communities is that when you listen, people have amazing ideas to make things better and change people's lives in their own area. It is great to see the diverse work being done through projects funded by National Lottery money.

"Whether it's small pots of funding or larger grants, people are being brought together to make good things happen and change lives. When people take the lead and develop their own great ideas, communities really do thrive. I want to say thanks to all The National Lottery players who have helped make this possible."

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