Befriending project receives £200k boost

Volunteer Louise chats to Dorothy INLM1613 002
Volunteer Louise chats to Dorothy INLM1613 002

A BEFRIENDING project based around the shores of Lough Neagh has been given a £200k boost from the Big Lottery Fund.

The scheme aims to improve the lives of isolated older people in the Derrytrasna, Aghagallon, Maghery and Birches areas and is being launched next week.

Loughshore Care Partnership (LCP) has been awarded a grant of £198,873 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out: Connecting Older People programme which supports older people affected by issues such as bereavement, disability or long term illness or who live in residential care or sheltered housing.

The project will launch a Befriending Scheme at the Discovery Centre on Monday April 22. The grant will be used to run a this scheme to support vulnerable and socially isolated older people who rarely leave their homes and are not taking part in any community activities.

Kevin Fox, LCP chairperson said he hoped that volunteer befrienders would reach out to elderly people in the area who are lonely or housebound.

“There are many elderly people in the area who for one reason or another are living alone or have become isolated from the rest of the community,” said Kevin Fox.

“Some have suffered a bereavement, for others old age or illness has made it difficult for them to get out and about and meet other people.

“We are currently trying to recruit volunteer befrienders to make contact with these elderly people, to stop by for a chat or offer support by listening to their concerns.”

Kevin Fox said LCP hopes these initial contacts with lonely older people can help give them renewed confidence.

“We hope that the initial contacts with the volunteer befrienders will give people the confidence to socialise, to make new friends, have the odd fun day out or get involved in new interests,” he said.

“There are a wide range of activities for people of all ages in the communities on the Loughshore.”

Volunteers will encourage older people to come along to one of the day care centres in the area to take part in activities such as arts and crafts, armchair-based activities and tea dances.

“We want to open up those opportunities through this service to elderly people living on their own through the home visits and providing transport to get out to leisure activities,” add Kevin Fox.

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “We are already seeing the really positive impact that the Connecting Older People programme is having on the lives of our most vulnerable older people in Northern Ireland.

“The programme is supporting a range of vital projects that are transforming the lives of older people in our communities who at risk of isolation, depression, mental and physical ill health and low self esteem. Our funding is supporting those older people who need our help the most.”

If you are interested in volunteering or want more information on the South Lough Neagh Befriending Initiative then contact Bernadette Donnelly on 028 3885 1911 or email