Begin Together – helping our communities to thrive
Belonging to a vibrant and supportive community can be very rewarding. But great communities and thriving towns don’t just happen. They need tireless commitment and active support, now more than ever.
Fortunately, in every town and village there are people of vision and inspiration, caring for those around them – and working hard to make things better for everyone.
Begin Together is part of Bank of Ireland’s support to help the resilience and recovery of communities across the island of Ireland, pledging €4m (approx. £3.5m) from 2020 through to 2022.
This includes £910k (€1m) in emergency funding donated in March 2020 to communities with urgent needs arising from Covid-19, with half of the funding fast-tracked to 13 groups across the island of Ireland to support children and older people, domestic abuse, rural isolation, cancer support, mental health and food distribution. The remaining funds were donated to The Community Foundation for Ireland and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 Funds to help local charities and community groups helping vulnerable individuals and groups at this difficult time.
One of the many future-facing projects we’ve supported through the Begin Together programme, is Liquid Therapy. It was founded in 2011 to provide one to one support for young people who wanted to experience surfing but were unable to participate in mainstream opportunities. Learn more about Liquid Therapy and the impact the Begin Together funding has had for one of the families they support:
Social isolation prevention, groups that work with migrants, educational skills and development for women, and interactive theatre for the disabled are among almost 100 community and arts projects that have received financial support from Bank of Ireland’s Begin Together programme.
In total, more than £700,000 was allocated to community groups, social enterprises and artists groups across the island of Ireland in 2021. The funding is allocated under two headings – the Begin Together Community Fund, and the Begin Together Arts Fund.
The Community Fund is delivered in partnership with The Community Foundation for Ireland (supported by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland) which provides expertise in the administration and delivery of the fund, while the Arts Fund is delivered in partnership with Business to Arts and supported by Arts & Business NI.
Community Fund grantees received up to £17,000 for projects spanning financial literacy and wellbeing, mental health, disability, inclusion and diversity, and social isolation. Arts Fund grantees received up to £8,500 to support the creation of new works in music, theatre, film, craft, dance, traditional arts, and the visual arts.
Among the groups from Northern Ireland to receive funding under the Begin Together programme is Beat Carnival, an organisation that for nearly thirty years has been creating carnival arts, as well as organising and producing performances, training and developing artists and encouraging community participation and ambition.
Another group to receive funding in Northern Ireland is Cara-Friend who have been supporting and empowering the LGBTQ+ community for close to fifty years.
Among the other projects to receive support are:
Age NI – Check in and Chat – the Begin Together grant will fund recruitment, training, and support of 20 volunteers, to ensure 20 more people who will receive the Check-in and chat service which is designed for people aged 70+ who are living alone and experiencing isolation or loneliness. Trusted volunteers provide a regular, friendly, listening ear and connection to the community, and an important safety net to identify the need for more specialist support.
Fermanagh Rural Community Initiative (FRCI) – the funding via the Recovering from Corona Hangover project will allow FRCI to provide an introductory pathway to skills development, with a range of short courses available and a signposting service to more intensive training opportunities, aimed at ensuring that beneficiaries have a realistic chance of positive progression.
Limin-Alley – the project will see four commissioned artists partner with four community groups actively working to improve their alleyway environment. The artists and groups will develop new work for outdoor presentation in a city-wide exhibition and ‘alley open day’ programmed as part of the Imagine Festival 2022.
Takeaway Theatre – provides an interactive performance that happens at home for people with disabilities and their families. This project will offer families the opportunity of fun and escapism, and will enable the participants with disabilities the opportunity to lead on the activity when too often their interaction with siblings/families is based on caring needs.
Begin Together Fund for Colleagues supports those local not-for-profit organisations across the UK which Bank of Ireland colleagues are personally involved with.
Here are a few of their stories:
– As an 80 year old charity, Yeadon Charities Association normally provides theatre to the local community and supports the elderly. Since the committee have been unable to perform this year, they’ve turned their creative hands instead to making over 160 sweat head bands, 24 sets of scrubs and over 90 reusable PPE bags for the Local NHS teams. Nominated by a colleague in Marshall Leasing.
– Destined are a charity that provides meals and care to the vulnerable at this time. Sadly their premises were ransacked and the kitchen facilities destroyed just before lockdown. However with the help of the local community and volunteers they now provide in excess of 100 meals per day to the vulnerable, with future plans to support more rural areas.
– Our team at Belfast City Branch has supported Belfast Homeless Services for the past few years. Belfast Homeless Services is a local voluntary organisation which operates a drop in centre in Belfast in the evenings, they provide hot food, clothing, sleeping bags and toiletries to the local homeless people, and have continued to provide this much needed service throughout Covid-19.
– As a member of Brislington Womens Institute, a colleague from our Mortgages Direct team has been making Scrub bags for NHS workers to put their ‘dirty’ scrubs in. It started with a small number requested by one department and now they have made over 7500, along with several thousand mask extenders, which have been supplied out to the ambulance services, various health centres, HMP Bristol and Dartmoor Prison.
– Kids Together is a Charity/Community organisation that supports children and young people with disabilities and their families. The organisation is deemed as an essential service, so the building has remained open to provide children with severe and complex needs the opportunity to keep their routine in as normal a way as is possible, along with providing much needed respite to their parents. Nominated by a colleague in Northern Ireland.