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Gráinne McClean - Rural Support

Rural Support – 24 helpline and advice service for farming families and friends

The Balmoral Show is about celebrating the positives of Northern Ireland’s farming and food industry, which has been one of the sectors least impacted by the economic downturn of the past few years. But there are of course local farmers and farming families who have hit upon hard times, and Rural Support, which has a stand at this year’s show, is there to help.

Founded in 2001 during the foot and mouth epidemic, when the farming community virtually ground to a halt for nearly three months, Rural Support provides invaluable help and advice for many farmers requiring assistance.

Based at Loughry College, Cookstown, the charity has 25 volunteers across the Province , lead by executive director Gráinne McClean, who also organises the Rural Support stand (number 82) in the Nugent Hall at Balmoral Show this week.

Gráinne explained: “We have a 24-hour helpline, offering a listening ear and signposting service to help deal with stress and practical issues. The helpline is staffed by trained volunteers, all from a rural background.”

According to Gráinne : “Struggle is not a weakness, everyone has stress at some time in their lives and we are there for everyone. Anyone who needs help with their own personal situation or concerned about friends or family can talk to us confidentially on our helpline, or come to Balmoral and see us in person.”

Everything from practical paperwork and financial worries, to helping with feelings of anxiety and suicide are catered for by Rural Support.Gráinne ensures that the skilled volunteers from Rural Support are readily available after a request for support.

She explained: “ Rural Support makes available professional counsellors, farmers, former Department of Agriculture and Rural Development employees and people from a benefits background. The organisation also has connections with the Samaritans, Citizens’ Advice and various farming groups. “

With such a strong support base, Rural Support is well placed to offer both emotional and practical support. She added: “It can help relieve stress and also tackle the causes. Sometimes, just talking things through is enough. Other times, more targeted and longer-term assistance is required. Rural Support assesses each caller’s needs and will ensure that the right help is found. All calls are in confidence.”

Rural Support offers a free, one hour finance consultation in partnership with FGS McClure Watters for those experiencing financial difficulties. Many people have benefited greatly from the charity which enabled them to turn their lives around thanks to help from the professional services within Rural Support.

A qualified town planner, Gráinne has worked in community development for some time and helps raise funds for Rural Support which is grant aided by DARD. Funds also come from the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust.