A Great Night At Downpatrick Social Enterprise Hub Soup Event
Around seventy people turned up for a great night of fun at the Downpatick social enterprise hub. It was Downpatrick Soup night and there was a palpable buzz in the air. A number of groups were bidding for the takings at the door.
Will a few pots of soup and loads of other tasty nibbles, the attendees enjoyed a great networking session exchanging ideas and chatting about the projects they are passionate about delivering at local level.
And then the contest began. There were none groups listed to make presentations for four minutes using the overhead projector. The vast array of talent and energy within the Downpatrick area social enterprise scene just bubbled to the surface like the soup on the stove, and the enthusiasm and commitment to their projects was very visible. There was even a selection of German soups from Antje Otto from Volunteer Now.
The groups presenting all aimed at producing a measurable amount of social benefits to the community. Most were driven by health and specifically mental health issues as alternative and creative approaches to local delivery of services and care.
Speaking after the event, Councillor Patrick Brown, said: “I have always been very supportive of the idea of social enterprise. I have just been blown away by what I have heard tonight.
“It is so good to see everyone having fun and chatting away and networking. I have just finished four years studies at Sheffield University where there is a very big and vibrant scene in social enterprises, and I would like to commend you all on what you are achieving. I just can’t wait to the all of the final outcomes to these projects in the future.”
The White Tree, presented by Fiona Robertson, was up first and provided a wide range of social and therapeutic opportunities through horticulture. It was very obvious from the descriptions provided that working hands-on in the fresh air in a horticultural environment was very therapeutic and Fiona provided evidence of clients that had turned their lives around after having faced considerable problems with addictions and mental health issues. Her next stage was to build a poly tunnel.
CAPAA, the local autism organisation was up next. Moira Denvir, the driving force behind this parent and client-led organisation helping young people cope with austism spectrum problems, showed a video explaining their key work and issues and the work they do in building confidence in young people with autism and preparing them for the later stages of life.
Orla Watt was another local contender from Parent Action which aims to challenge injustices for young people. Their aim is to make these issues and injustices visible and get a professional focus on them. She explained: “We talk to individual groups and develop action plans for better outcomes, and we provide advocacy services too while trying to empower our clients and the groups.
“It’s about raising awareness too in our young people and youth, and we can provide home visits when that is appropriate.” With 731,056 people in the 2011 census aged between 0-29 in Northern Ireland, Parent Action has a wide base to work from across the Down area.
Pop Up Art also presented. Located at the Downpatrick Social Enterprise Hub, this innovative project set up my Manus Teague, aimed to help people recover from addictions and mental health problems and rebuild their lives in the community.
Manus said afterwards: “It aims to restore confidence and good mental health. We repaint old furniture and it is extremely beneficial and to date over 60 people have come through our books. They could be here for the short or long term. People just engage in painting items and they really benefit from the social acceptance and their confidence and mental health often turns round for the better. It has been really successful”
Three volunteers from Pop Up Art explained their experiences. Kevin said: “I came from Ward 15 suffering from alcohol problems and within no time at all found many friends at Pop Up Art.” And David said: “I suffer from Asberger’s Syndrome, and have also made lots of friends. O’ve been able to get on with my life and have passed qualifications at OCN level. I enjoy photography and we hope to be able to make a few postcards of Downpatrick and County Down.”
And Janet said: :”I came along as a volunteer. I suffer from depression. After I got really involved in it all, I really felt much better and it has turned my life around.”
Castle Living Choices was last to present and xxxx explained that this project was about providing a way for people coming out of Ward 15 addiction unit to find a safe way to settle back into the community. gabriel Magee explained: “I had myself suffered from extreme anxiety and my life crashed and I was even homeless sleeping on the street. Many of our people can’t deal with agencies etc and our role is to help them get through this and adjust to a more settled life by providing support through sheltered accomodation. We work with Ward 15 and the statutory agencies and look after our clients.”
After the presentations, Stephen McClelland, Hub Manager, thanked everyone for attending and handed over to Gabriel Magee who acted as ‘deputy presiding officer’ for the election. In a humorous delivery, recalling his youthful days when he claims to have voted three times in an election and never used his own name once, he read out the results from the “475 voters on those 70 present, and acknowledging the 165 ‘spoiled’ votes.” It did raise a laugh and demonstrated the camaraderie present on the night between all the volunteers present from the various groups.
The winners were Pop Up Art. Stephen McClelland said, a well wisher had given them £50 at the start of the event, and it was presented to Moira Denvir of CAPAA who came in second. Stephen said the winners Pop Up Art received the takings at the door which amounted to £254.54.
Present on the night were video company Kardar who had produced the video for CAPAA explaining the work that they do.