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The North Down hub which is a lifeline for the local community

Belfast Live logo Belfast Live 2 days ago Nadia Breen
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UP NEXT

North Down Community Hub has been described as 'a lifeline' for local residents.

The centre in the heart of Bangor provides a place for locals to come to make friends in order to battle social isolation.

The hub is part of North Down Community Network (NDCN) and opened six years ago to provide social connection along with a range of health and well-being services.

It opened in the town centre to reach out to the local community for a range of activities and services, advice and guidance.

The hub has been described as a 'beacon of hope' which closed back in March due to lockdown. They didn't stop working hard to help residents when they needed it most.

Joe Black told Belfast Live he attends the facility as it provides him with amazing opportunities to get involved in lots of different activities.

He said: "We do creative things, artistic things, music and more. If someone told me five years ago that I would be singing in public, reciting poetry on the street, playing the ukulele and making iron hanging baskets I would have laughed at you, but with the hub, these things happen.

"It is extraordinary. I do not recognise myself from the person who walked in here all those years ago. It has made me about ten stone lighter.

"I have found a family - a tribe of sisters and brothers and I love these guys, they are amazing."

Joe wants to influence others to join in and not to be afraid to take that first step.

He added: "It is so hard to make that first initial move, but jump and the bridge will appear and I will guarantee you if you walk in that door, you will be welcomed regardless of who you are, what you are or where you come from. They are so welcoming and are such a bunch of lovely, warming people.

"Now more than ever it's beyond vital to stick together. With Covid, the effect it has had on people's mental health is uncalculable. Thank goodness we have this lighthouse, this beacon of hope that means so much to so many people."

Louise Little, Manager of NDCN said any of those in society that already felt socially isolated due to mental health issues, physical health issues, low income and poverty, were living even more isolated from others when Covid-19 hit.

During the closure, the small team of staff and volunteers worked from home and made over 900 befriending calls which enabled them to stay connected with people, but also to find out the emerging issues and needs in isolation. 

They offered practical support when needed most including helping over 150 households with food shopping, picking up and delivering over 100 prescriptions, referring over 200 households for emergency food parcels and making 5000 face masks through the social enterprise 'Sew Healthy'.

They also signposted over 500 people for further support when needed, including mental health and benefit support. 

Louise told Belfast Live an issue that kept coming up during lockdown was a deep feeling of isolation with a severe deterioration in mental and physical health of residents.

This was due to many users having no access to internet to be able to take part in online activities and not having face to face connections with family and friends. 

The Community Hub reopened when lockdown first lifted, running small groups of socially distanced activities focused on offering social connection and improving health and well-being was vital.

This included choir, yoga, walking, creative writing, an emotional support group, book club, playwriting and a new Grow Your Own Project in partnership with Conservation Volunteers. 

Through this project, people have been encouraged to spend more time outdoors in nature to improve their health and well-being and build their capacity to live a more sustainable life. 

Louise said: "This project was created as we were trying to do as many activities as we could outside, just to try and find a way of getting involved and to be connected in a safe way.

"They came up with the idea to create an urban garden. It starts off very much like a shell and as the weeks and months go on we will transform it into a nice garden with flowers growing but also vegetables, that people can take great pleasure from. 

"As well as doing something practical and learning new skills, they get to see their friends, they get to have a nice time and get to be outside in a safe environment.

"The range of services we provide cover the five steps to wellbeing. 

"People recognise they are not on their own, so the sense of loneliness and isolation, all of those things are reduced."

Video by Belfast Live Videographer Harry Bateman.

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