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Causeway Volunteer Centre and Henderson’s Pharmacy, Coleraine

Connections underfoot

Causeway Volunteer Centre (CVC) is the leading Agency for volunteering in the Causeway Area covering Coleraine, Ballymoney and Moyle. CVC was established 1997 to further develop the volunteering infrastructure in Northern Ireland. CVC delivers a portfolio of volunteer-effective projects liaising with charities, voluntary and community organisations, local authorities, schools and colleges, health professionals and Government Departments.

They recently completed a Level 2 BCPP project with local pharmacist Evan Reid from Henderson Pharmacy. The programme was called Build Connections and was aimed at doing exactly that, helping people from within our community make better connections to Evan, community partners, the wider local services and mainly to make connections within the group and with each other. Our aim was to explore coping strategies to support wellbeing and to highlight the importance of outdoors, learning new skills, volunteering, and friendships to root connectedness throughout our local community.

Participants came from all walks of life to join Build Connections, each person had their own reasons why they come along, may it have been to learn, make friends, to build in a routine into their week. 5 of our participants were not from the Coleraine area but had made Coleraine their home over the past few years.

Evan was an asset to work alongside in our BCPP project, he has a wealth of knowledge and was very approachable for both participants and the partners. Evan had one to one session with each participant, giving them privacy to discuss any health concerns or queries they may have had. Evan talked through any literacy, health questions and busting myths, he also spoke clearly, and no question was ever seen as too silly to ask (mainly from me lol). Thanks to Evan taking the time to talk to everyone and checking in weekly, one of our participants followed up on a concern they had and has since underwent major surgery.

One participant had a great saying... Use your food as medicine or later in life you will be using your medicine as food’. We all thought this was a great motto to reflect on a session we had about nutrition.

As the programme is co designed by the participants, they selected the activities and the community partners they wanted to work alongside throughout the program. Participants enjoyed a wide variety of different activities to cover everyone’s expectations. Build Connections enjoyed cooking, baking, arts and crafts, visits to local library, adventures to the oldest known settlement in NI, journeys on the train along the beautiful Foyle lough and walks around the Derry Walls to name a few.

A highlight on everyone’s list was the behind the scenes visit to the pharmacy. This was a great visit and it opened everyone’s eyes to what is involved in issuing one prescription, one participant past the comment ‘I now understand why I have to wait so long for my prescription’ lol. The program broke down barriers, people may not have known were there, and allowed participants time to feel comfortable to share their story in a safe environment surrounded by their new friends. At each session we always enjoyed a cuppa and some nice tasty treats.

I was new to the area and have found coming along each week so enjoyable, I have made new friends and learnt so much about services which are on my doorsteps but just never knew what was behind the name. Thank you for the opportunity to be involved’. - Build Connections Participant

From our first contact with CDHN to our final evaluation the team were amazing, they were always on hand to help when needed. The application process was straightforward and easily navigated. On behalf of CVC, I would like to thank the whole team at CDHN for your help support and guidance and for granting us the opportunity to help an amazing group come together with Evan and our community partners over a 14week period to learn new skills, build friendships, educate themselves on local services and experience new activities. - Causeway Volunteer Centre / Lead Community Partner

Watching friendships develop as the program progressed was a rewarding experience, people were meeting for coffees and chats outside of the group and even going along to other groups they had learnt about from our community partners. This funding empowered CVC, Evan and Community Partners to connect with people who were isolated, lonely and unsure of where to turn in their community and gave them the opportunity to Build Connections.