Edgar Aitcheson is Secretary of the Cloughmills Cultural and Historical Society, a local group which brings older people together weekly for arts, crafts and history. Around 35 people come along to the classes every week to learn interesting new skills.
Edgar says, ‘Our group provides a very welcome opportunity for people in more rural areas to meet up, enjoy each other’s company and get involved in a new activity. Loneliness can be a real challenge for many older people, particularly for those in more isolated parts of Northern Ireland. Having a local group like ours locally gives people a reason and an opportunity to get together.
‘We have sought funding to keep the group running for almost 12 years. It’s getting more and more difficult to access money in the current economic climate and it’s really important to know about the opportunities that are available and how to access them otherwise local groups can miss out. I heard about Age NI’s Steps to Funding project (supported by Comic Relief) through COAST the regional older people’s network in our area. The workshops are all about helping groups like ours to sustain and develop the work we do in our local communities.
‘Finding funding sources and filling out forms can be complicated and time-consuming, particularly if you’re not sure how best to approach them. Age NI’s Steps to Funding workshop was a fantastic help. It made the funding process so clear. There were lots of examples to give us an idea of how to complete forms properly and the jargon was brilliantly explained. Above all there was so much encouragement to seek out every available opportunity for money, and we left the workshop feeling better informed and motivated.
‘In the last few months we have received almost £3,000 from a wide range of funders including the Halifax Foundation, Awards for All and our local Council – funding which is supporting the continuation of our craft and history classes, as well as an historical day trip for 50 older people in the coming weeks. I’d urge anyone thinking about attending the Steps to Funding workshop to go. It’s a great learning experience and I have no doubt that the advice and information we gained on the day has supported our group to gain more financial support.’
>> Find out more about Steps to Funding