Friday, 25 May 2012

Reeling Them In...


AT THE heart of community development is the idea that local issues can be solved by
local people. So when the Bluebell Community Development Project (CDP) in South Dublin found that many local men did not engage with their community,they found a novel way of
approaching the issue of social isolation.
They formed the Bluebell Community Angling Club in January, initially with 10 members. Just three months later there are now 49 members who meet once a week, attend workshops and arrange monthly outings to lakes as far apart as Monaghan, Cavan,Carlow and Kilkenny.

What makes this angling club different is that no previous experience of fishing is required. Indeed one of the conditions of membership is that experienced anglers have to provide workshops for those new to the sport.

But then it’s also clear that this club is about much more than just fishing. Derek O’Neill, one of the club’s
younger members, told Liberty: “I had never fished before but this club is different from any club I’ve been involved in.Look at the mix of ages. It goesfrom 21 to men in their 70s. It benefitseverybody. Everybody gets different views, different life stories and everyone can share their feelings.”

NUI student Mick Mooney, who is doing work placement with Bluebell CDP as part of his degree course, underlined the benefits of this wide age range. He said: “We wanted to create an environment where men, old and young, could integrate and socialise with each other. When you see them working together, you can see how social
integration can prosper. In setting up the community angling club we’ve relied heavily on community development values and principles.We have a membership sub of just €2 a week to ensure finance is not a barrier to people and we've ensured the project is self-financing via a series of fundraising activities

“We’ve also had great support from organisations like Waterways Ireland and Inland Fisheries Ireland.” Sean Duffy spoke for many of the older members of the club. He told Liberty: “There are young lads here and it’s amazing how they take the time to help me line up and hook up.The club and the community in general are very supportive to older people. They have a number of projects going on and this just happens to be one of them.”

Mick Mooney sees the club’s primary role as being a practical way of combating social isolation.He said: “They can learn life skills and how to deal with the anger they may be feeling, the anger that comes from sitting at home all day with nothing to do. Too often men can fall victim to dependency on alcohol and drugs because of an
inability to engage with people about what may be troubling them.”

This type of project would never have come about had it not been for Bluebell CDP – so it is shocking to
discover it has had (since last December) all direct funding cut by the Government. Darragh O’Connor, of SIPTU’s Community Sector Campaign, said: “The Bluebell Community Angling Club is just one example of the presence of a multiplier effect when it comes to measuring the real value of CDPs.

“The problem is that a crude book-keeping exercise with an exclusive focus on so called ‘labour market activation measures’ will not reflect the positive changes to these men’s lives or to their communities.“

He added: “This sector is first and foremost about people young and old, about building communities that are strong, vibrant and inclusive.Cutting funding to these vital projects is not the answer.

“That’s a message that our campaign will be bringing to the Government on behalf of all workers in the community sector.”


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