The Greater Whitewell Community Surgery (GWCS) is a partnership between Greencastle Community Empowerment Partnership and White City Community Development Association. The immediate catchment area includes a renowned interface area and communities that historically had disengaged from cross community programmes.
The GWCS operates out of premises on the Shore Road and works across a number of areas that include the Longlands, Bawnmore, Throne, Upper Whitewell and Graymount communities. The GWCS was first established in 2010 and is currently overseen by local resident cross-community management committee, employing one full time and two part time members staff.
Since its development the GWCS has based itself within a locally accessible shared space that has increased community confidence and participation in cross community activities. The organisation has continually worked to champion the needs of local residents, facilitate programmes aimed at building cohesion and improving safety across the various communities, and put in place initiatives that have improved the health and social wellbeing of local residents.
The GWCS aims:
- To maintain a robust and transparent intercommunity partnership;
- To address quality of life issues for all residents by building, maintaining and facilitating relationships with local government, statutory bodies and the voluntary and private sector;
- To support engage all residents in processes that respect and value culture and diversity;
- To provide residents with opportunities to participate in projects that will increase civic empowerment;
- To contribute and support local regeneration initiatives;
- To raise awareness around the education and health needs of young people.
Three of the main strengths of the GWCS:
- The large number of volunteers, many of whom were originally participants on programmes;
- The recognition that the premises is a safe space that can be accessed by any person or organisation;
- The relationships with international funders and local government
The GWCS has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of developing and implementing good relations programmes in the Greater Whitewell area of North Belfast. The following section is an opportunity to illustrate how our work is aligned with The Executive Office Good Relations Strategy and is being steered by the vision of building a united community.
Our Children and Young People
Currently, young people aged 5-16 years from various communities are participating in the Achieving Personal Potential (APP) programme. This brings the young people together after school and provides them with support around homework. Furthermore, the young people are introduced to information around improving their health and wellbeing. Young people participate in themed discussions (ranging from culture, sport, health and leisure).
The GWCS also supports the Education Authority youth provision twice a week for 14-17 year olds. The sessions run from 6.30 to 9pm. They plan events and trips, consider educational and employment opportunities and host seminars on issues that include sectarianism, sexual awareness, and racism. The GWCS are also facilitating a programme between local young people and the PSNI. Several young people from different community backgrounds are involved in challenging discussions around community safety, stereotypes, roles and responsibilities of the police, and community expectations of the PSNI.
In conclusion, the GWCS recognise the importance of creating opportunities for all of the young people to meet in a safe environment - with the aims of building and sustaining relationships on the basis of commonality and not difference.
Our shared community
Since its conception the GWCS have strived to create safe spaces across the Greater Whitewell area. It’s a testament to the commitment of staff and volunteers that the area has been significantly transformed. The Whitewell road had become more of a shared space, with sectarian attacks significantly decreasing and becoming more sporadic and less sustained. Furthermore, the GWCS premises are clearly identified by all residents as a safe space that allows for sometimes difficult and challenging conversations. Further evidence in the transformation of the area is the use of White City Centre by members of the broader community.
It is also important to note that the GWCS have submitted an application to SEUPB for Peace IV Funding for the asset transfer of Ballygolan primary school. This has been earmarked as a shared space, which will provide the community with child care facilities, training rooms, and seminar space for community events if the application is successful. The Surgery should know the outcome of this by December 2018.
Greater Whitewell Community Surgery
878 Shore Road
Belfast BT36 7DQ
Tel: 028 9085 9911
Manager: Geraldine O’Kane