Having known Keeva Watson, the ROC Northern Ireland Regional Development Manager, for many years and her involvement in ROC, I wanted to partner with them in the area of North Belfast where I am serving as a Methodist Minister. So in September 2019, a ROC Conversation was held in a local primary school where 63 people from across the community attended. This was noted to be the first of its kind held in the Ballysillan area and was a very positive night.
Our ROC Action Group was quickly set up of which I am the leader. We may be a small team but we have a big heart for the different people in the community. Getting started we held a number of events including coffee mornings in different venues, a stress buster workshop evening for Primary 7 pupils getting ready to sit their transfer test, an online safety family workshop evening and we’d also arranged a seniors’ information fair and lunch which was sadly cancelled due to Covid-19.
Then in September 2020, Keeva approached me to see if ROC Ballysillan would be interested in the new ROC Tele-Mentors project – a short term 10-week online family mentoring programme, the first of its kind for ROC Northern Ireland. ROC attained funding initially for 6 months but have been able to obtain funding to extend it to March 2022. We currently have 12 fully trained mentors and have had 8 referrals who have been matched with our volunteers. I myself am a mentor and have been paired up with our only male referral. This has proved to be a positive experience for those involved and much help, guidance, and practical assistance has been provided by different organisations that mentees have been signposted towards.
Many good things have come out of this project so far. But one that stands out is when one of the mentors arranged for childrens clothes and provisions to be supplied from a baby bank that was known through a friend to their mentee. It struck her that there is nothing like that in the local area and the need is very much there to help families with babies and young children. So within one week Ballysillan Baby Bank came into being. It has the privilege of providing clothes, toiletries and nappies for babies to children 4 years old. The project has really taken off through Facebook within the community and donations have been received, sorted and given out to those in need of some support.
This has been an exciting adventure for ROC Ballysillan and we continue to help bless and support our community as best we can. We’ve just launched our new Dragons Den project which will provide four local groups with £250 to do a project over the summer with the theme ‘Renewing Connections’. We are excited to see what’s in store for ROC Ballysillan.