THE Fishermen’s Mission which covers the three fishing ports of Kilkeel, Ardglass and Portavogie has received a £1,000 Community Award from the Progressive Building Society, the largest locally-owned mortgage lender in Northern Ireland.
Delighted with the award, Mission Area Officer Maurice Lake said: “These very welcome funds will go towards the completion of an expansion project at our Kilkeel harbour centre for bigger premises to turn the building into its flagship premises in the Province.
“The Fishermen’s Mission has been working in Northern Ireland for some sixteen years. Its traditional role is to bring welfare, pastoral and spiritual support to fishermen and their families. That role continues and is expanding, particularly in ports where fishing is in decline.
“Where the opposite occurs, this work continues but increases in other areas. In Northern Ireland those other areas are in providing shore facilities to enable recreation, relaxation, communication and basic comforts such as laundry facilities.
“The funds from the Progressive Community Award went towards helping the organisation take over another floor of its Kilkeel centre to establish a firm office base in Northern Ireland. The space will allow the Mission to extend and improve existing services and reach more people. The additional space will also be useful for training purposes.
“I have been in post in Northern Ireland now for two years and have tried to move things on to benefit the fishing community. We now have the Kilkeel centre open from 9am to 9pm daily when it was only open on Friday evenings through to Sunday before. We installed CCTV and it all seems to be working very well. The fishermen and users use the premises on trust.”
Maurice explained that there were now many migrant workers working in the fishing industry from the Philipines, Eqypt, Eastern Europe, and even Ghana and Siri Lanka.
He added: “The Ardglass centre has proven to be very successful too and in October 2012 we opened one in Portavogie and that is going well. These centre’s and our support are for all the fishermen including the retired ones, and their widows etc. We are only too keen to encourage them all to set up groups such as coffee mornings or domino sessions to provide recreation and social contact. It needs to be driven from within the fishing community. I would stress that it is open to all connected to the fishing industry and the fishing community.
“I am deeply encouraged too by the level of support we receive from the non-fishing business community. Recently, we managed to paint our centre outsides and inside at cost price courtesy of a local hardware/paint shop. Overall the Fishermen’s Mission in Northern Ireland is progressing steadily.”
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In this latest round of the Progressive Community Award Scheme, five organisations, all committed to working for the benefit of their local communities, received support totalling £5,800.
Members of the Society who wish to nominate a community group for consideration for a future Award can contact their local branch of Progressive Building Society or download a form from the ‘About Progressive in the Community’ page on www.theprogressive.com. The Community Awards are issued twice a year.