Close-knit community has a positive outlook

Drumbeg Residents Association visit the Shankill Road in Belfast
Drumbeg Residents Association visit the Shankill Road in Belfast
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A HOT summer’s day in Drumbeg and everyone is out walking their dogs or pushing prams. There is lots of chat and you can feel the close-knit community vibe.

Drumbeg is a place where community matters and a sense of belonging is top priority.

The hub is the Community House, run by Drumbeg Community Association.

It is being developed at the moment and has a high tech meeting room with accessible power points, comfy chairs and tea on the boil.

But it was far too nice a day to be stuck inside so the Committee chatted to me outside in the sun and it was clear from those who wandered by that they are held in high regard.

One 70-year-old woman Marie Quigley who lives just a short distance from the Community House was eager to show her appreciation of the Association and the area she lives in.

“I love Drumbeg. I really like the area and the people. It is a close knit community and everyone has a hello for you. If you are in trouble, they are the first there for you. When I was ill everyone was at my door,” she said.

And she revealed the Drumbeg Community Association have organised a trip to Benidorm for the locals.

“I just got my passport. It is the first time in my life I have ever been abroad. If it wasn’t for the community association I would never have got away,” said Marie.

Indeed the Association have a very busy summer planned. On July 22 there will be a Fun Day - the third one in the estate with bouncy castles and face painting galore. The Sports Council are supplying nets for games such as volleyball tennis and five-a-side. Instructors will be there to show the kids how all the games are played and to help improve their skills.

But, as everywhere, funding is tight and Association chairman Tommy Sheridan is hoping to raise a bit more funding so that they have enough cash to give out prizes to the kids.

There are around 250 houses with mostly families, a few foreign nationals and while it is mostly a Catholic nationalist estate, there are a few Protestants who live very happily in the neighbourhood.

Drumbeg has taken a bad rap over the years with sporadic trouble spouting at times of high tension but the Association is trying to create activities to keep the young people involved in positive events.

Tommy emphasised that the Association is a non-political community group and it is clear in their constitution that they do not get involved in politics, including condemnation.

Indeed as a direct response to a major flashpoint area, the group sat down for ages to try and think of a way to appease the situation.

They have a great relationship with the Council and the NIHE and Tommy is involved with the Brownlow Neighbourhood Renewal which is part of the Department of Social Development. It took a lot of work and £85,000 but the Reminiscence Garden was created.

“It was the main flashpoint area and we sat down and talked about what we could do about it. We put in for funding and were working through reimaging the estate, removing graffiti from walls and giving the place a good clean up,” said Tommy.

“The Reminiscence Garden is dedicated to the memory of all the loved ones who have passed away in the 42 years since the estate was built,” he said.

The Association is keen to be pro-active, getting the whole estate involved in community events. And there is plenty going on this summer.

In August there are trips to Funtasia and also Portrush. Around 150 children are being bussed for day trips jam-packed with fun stuff to do.

The Association is also running a special project in the Community House on river fishing. Experts will be on hand to teach knot tying, how to behave on the river and all about fish. At the end of the project participants will be rewarded with a week’s river fishing.

The Southern Education and Library Board are helping to fund many of the projects via an Intervention Grant.

It is a robust committee with 14 members of all ages.

The youngest is 20-year-old Caitriona Sheridan who is steeped in voluntary and community work and is involved with Detached Youth in Drumgor. She is very enthusiastic about bringing the young people on board.

Another of the many activities the Association runs is the Craigavon Amateur Boxing Club which runs out of the Eire Og GAA club.

It has been up and running for about four months, three days a week and has about 200 members from aged eight to those who are 40 plus.

Eight-year-old Leona Patterson is the youngest member of the boxing club. “It’s great fun. I go twice a week,” she said.

Drumbeg also has a fishing club. A few of the locals went to Portrush one day sea fishing and soon the group mushroomed with around 16 in the club now. There is plenty of room for more for all those interested in joining.

The Association is also in the process of setting up a Wellbeing Club in conjunction with the Southern Health Trust.

In the Community House there will be a consultation room with counsellors on hand for advice and support.

There will be help with debt advice, drug and alcohol abuse and the Association will be working with PIPS to help people who have been affected by suicide and depression.

In fact the Community Centre is not just a meeting place for the committee but a hub for the entire community. A drop in centre for anyone who fancies a cup of tea and a chat or just wants to shoot the breeze on issues that they are affected by.

The Association has also done a lot of cross community work with Parkmore and the Shankill Road in Belfast. They have worked with Women Against Conflict in Belfast and are eager to continue even more cross community work in the future.

The Association also wants to get more of the older generation involved in events and is actively looking at different ideas following the success of their Christmas dinner.

Many of the committee have completed Community Leadership courses and Community Dialogue Course and also have completed the Brick Project organised by the NIHE.

There is a host of things for the youth to get involved with in Drumbeg for 14-year-old Caitlin Sheridan it is her dance group, KC Dance Stars, which is using the community house and Tullygally Youth Club.

“I love it,” said Caitlin. “I have been doing it since I was three and it’s great to meet all my mates who enjoy doing the same thing.”

Childminder Gemma O’Brien has been living in Drumbeg for 32 years.

“I love the people. I would not move out for any amount of money. I have great neighbours. If there is anything wrong there is always people to turn to,” said Gemma who completed her Child Protection course in the community House..