The Coronavirus pandemic has changed how we live in ways we could never have imagined a few months ago. The Northern Ireland Community Relations Council (NICRC) pays tribute to the fearless work of our front line services and our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones to the virus.
Like most other organisations our day to day work has been affected. During this global crisis it is a challenge to bring people together without actually physically bringing people together! The majority of our work and the work of our funded groups is relational and thrives when we meet face to face to learn, get to know more about each other and work together to build a united community.
Nevertheless, in this time of crisis and uncertainty many examples have emerged of community based groups working across the region to connect and support people, including those funded by NICRC.
Martin McDonald Chair of NICRC said:
“Many organisations funded by NICRC are stepping up to support vulnerable people. We are seeing great resilience as groups quickly move to new ways of working using new technologies and delivering essential community based frontline services. We want to offer our praise for community organisations and volunteers supporting the vulnerable during the Covid-19 crisis.”
Jacqueline Irwin, CEO of NICRC highlighted the role of CRC funded groups:
“We have been really impressed by the community based organisations we fund as they have found ways to adapt and offer help during the emergency. We have examples of groups helping front line delivery of food to people who are vulnerable and self-isolating across our community. We have groups developing on-line capacity to run meetings and conferences. Others are making resources available for learning or even just for fun to help us all keep morale up.”
There are plenty of examples out there! It’s no surprise that for some people and community groups a lot of lockdown life has migrated online making good use of digital infrastructure. This includes the NICRC Core Fund group, Holywell Trust which has been using resources from our Media Grant Scheme to develop and broadcast their “Forward Together” podcasts. Gerard Deane from Holywell Trust said:
“Series 2 of the Forward Together Podcast began in April 2020 right in the midst of the pandemic. This second series is a deeper dive into a range of issues facing society from dealing with the past to addressing economic inequality. The podcast is a key part of our commitment to encouraging debate and discussion on key issues facing our community and we hope it keeps people engaged and connected in this time of crisis.”
Other NICRC Core Fund groups have also been bringing their work online:
Intercomm Ireland have used teleconferencing to deliver a virtual walking tour of different parts of Belfast.
Londonderry Bands Forum has embraced the challenge by introducing online bagpipe lessons and organising the #Fittomarch initiative amongst other things!
PeacePlayers NI have been engaging people with their online basketball challenge video to raise awareness of their work and keep connected with participants and funders.
The Rural Community Network has started the “In this Together” project to connect and collect rural stories and experiences during the pandemic.
Some Core Fund groups have moved their learning and development programmes online. For example, St Columb’s Park House, Shankill Women’s Centre, and Tides Training have all been working online with training and mentoring to keep communities engaged and connected.
You can read about this work on each organisation's website or social media channels.
NICRC remain committed to supporting the work of groups and organisations at the frontline of continuing to build a united community. Praising the work of groups Martin McDonald said:
The community relations work supported by NICRC that has developed in difficult times is proving to be a solid and reliable as the foundation it was built on, strengthening existing relationships and building new ones in times of crisis. When the time is right, repairing the damage done by this disease will involve us all as we slowly reconnect. In the meantime we praise the groups who are finding new ways to sustain human connections.”