Belfast Telegraph

Villages awarded £50k to help create new social enterprises

By Amanda Poole

The Big Lottery Fund's Village SOS scheme has awarded business grants of more than £641,000 to 13 communities across Northern Ireland.

Around £50,000 has been earmarked for each village to help people create social enterprises.

The UK-wide scheme supports rural communities of less than 3,000 people to come together to improve their range of facilities and services.

Groups offered funding include a meals-on-wheels service for older people in Magherafelt, a bus service for people living in isolated areas of Dungannon and an arts and crafts shop in a community centre in rural Co Londonderry.

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund's Northern Ireland chairman, said: "Village SOS is a unique opportunity for funding for community-run social enterprises.

"We are delighted to announce the funding offers for these innovative Northern Ireland projects which are testament to the strength and creativity that exists in this rural community."

Among them is the Loughshore Access and Community Enterprise (Lace).

It plans to use its grant to set up a handyman business offering a range of services to isolated people living in the South Lough Neagh area.

Lace chairman, Alan Emerson, said: "This is a deprived area where there are older people, people with disabilities and those with mental ill health, who live alone and are quite isolated. They often don't get to see anyone from one week to the next and they can get quite lonely.

"Life can get on top of them a bit and the everyday tasks you and I take for granted can really prove difficult and stressful."

Meanwhile, the Villages Together group has been offered £49,800 to help set up a furniture recycling centre and online eBay business in the rural village of Donemana, near Strabane, Co Tyrone.

Project co-ordinator, Noelle Donnell, said of the offer: "Donemana is a rural village where the community is quite depressed about the recession and the few jobs available are generally in traditional businesses like agriculture.

"People don't have large disposable incomes so this centre will be a place where they can come to buy furniture and other items for their homes without breaking the bank.

"We will then clean up the items people donate and sell them at very reasonable prices in the store."