Eden Project Communities – Member in Focus #44

Eden Project Communities – Member in Focus #44

Eden Project Communities

Interview with Grainne McCloskey from Eden Project Communities.

Tell us a bit about yourself and/or your organisation.

I’m Grainne McCloskey and I’m the Northern Ireland manager for Eden Project Communities.
We run a community camp to connect and encourage people to make positive change where they live and we are partnered with The National Lottery bringing people together for The Big Lunch every June.

We invite you and people all over the UK to take part this year with simple acts of friendship where you live. With over 6 million people taking part each year, it is building social capital which we like to call human warming and knowing your neighbours makes all the difference when times are tough, as we have all recently learnt!

I live in the Glens of Antrim with my husband Sean and two teenage boys and my bestie is a whippet called Jack!

How well have you/your organisation adapted to the pandemic?

Personally I had good days and horrific days! I have been a home-based worker for many years but the pandemic has made that very restrictive and I struggled with this last lockdown.

I have two teenage boys 15 and 17 years and to be polite they enjoy “testing their boundaries”. My husband is retired with Motor neurone Disease and he hated shielding.

I don’t think anyone had a smooth ride over the last year or so, which is why it’s so important to be connected where we live. Eden Project Communities was one of the first to move to zoom and we created a zoom village hall so our network could make use of the tech until they could set their own up, we booked it out just like a hall. We also moved all our events online and we have found lots of people in other parts of the UK turned up to things we were promoting on social media, from foraging to intergenerational project sessions. We also moved our community camp online and it is now an accredited training programme.

When lockdown got longer and Eden Project in Cornwall had to stay closed to visitors, we opened a virtual window and created the Festival of Discovery, which you can dip into on you tube or Facebook by searching Eden Project Communities.

I think we have been busier than ever but we had to work twice as hard because I’m sure you’ll agree nothing beats practical face to face contact for community building and learning from each other.

How well have people/organisations in your area collaborated throughout the pandemic?
 
I live in the Glens near the coast and it’s a very friendly part of the world. The local hurling teams all volunteered and supported key workers and local people as needed and the local Glenariff Community Recreation Centre, Cushendall Development Group and of course North Antrim Community Network were great coordinators. I lived and worked for many years in London and I loved it but I count my blessings we were not there in lockdown, in fact we lucked out to be living on the coast in such a well connected community. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a harsh winter for many of us and for the older community it has been particularly isolating. It really hasn’t been easy for anyone.
 
What key needs are becoming apparent and/or are likely to arise this year?
 

I can see and hear from my work across Northern Ireland there are differing needs.
For some it will take support and encouragement to re integrate into community life again, for others there will be lasting mental health consequences that may not even have surfaced, particularly for those who lost loved ones during the pandemic. There will of course be a massive negative economic impact for us all which doesn’t bear thinking about right now when we are trying to get back to some normality.

ASK: What do you need, right now, that the members of Community Network NI and/or the wider community may be able to help you with?
 
I really want everyone to take part in The Big Lunch 2021 with small acts of friendship where you live. Its easy just register and decide what to do– we want you to unpack The Big Lunch 2021 where you live.
Lots of things are already being organised and here are some ideas to get you thinking, make lunch for a few neighbours, organise a litter picnic, plan a virtual lunch or decorate your window with a thank you to key workers, hold a garage gift away or donate to your food bank. Everything goes as this year we want to safely build on the solidarity we showed each other in the pandemic.
Just visit The Big Lunch and join in as an individual or as part of a group.
 
👋 If you would like to respond to this ask, please follow the link below and enter “Eden Project Communities” to the first field.
 

OFFER: What support are you currently offering and are you open to members of Community Network NI and/or the wider community making contact?

We have FREE events and incentives to offer people who register for this years Big Lunch to help you get started. Just visit our Facebook page The Big lunch Northern Ireland and make sure to add it to your notifications so you don’t miss out. We have a BBQ and next will be a gazebo as well as lots of other little giveaways to help make The Big Lunch a success this year.

We will also run a FREE accredited community training camp for people who have ideas they want to bring to life in your community. It is designed to develop connections and learn from each other, we also promote this through social media and are always open to applications. Please do connect with us – perhaps during our month of community in June we can shine a light on what you do too!

👋 If you would like to be connected with this offer of support, please follow the link below and enter “Eden Project Communities” to the first field.

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