- Northern Ireland
- People and Communities
- Release date:
- 4 10 2017
Groups across Northern Ireland are bringing people together, improving wellbeing and reducing isolation thanks to £1.6 million in National Lottery funding.
One of the groups, Rosie’s Trust, has been awarded a £499,281 grant from Big Lottery Fund’s People and Communities programme. The Bangor based group helps people coping with old age and health conditions to care for and stay with their companion pets. The five-year project is expanding their support by creating regional teams of volunteers across Northern Ireland to allow people to keep their pets which offer an important emotional bond and reduce social isolation. The project will also offer befriending and other support.
Karen Tipping, 47, from Bangor knows first-hand how valuable a service like this is.
It was October last year when Karen received a cancer diagnosis and was unable to look after her beloved dogs.
She, Lily and Maisy are a team and the thought of losing the lovable Border Collie Cross and her Shitzu sidekick was almost as bad the shock diagnosis.
“I’ll never forget Hallowe’en 2016. Things hadn’t been quite right for about a year but I just thought it was ‘my age’. I was busy with work and family commitments,” recalls Karen, a teacher at a Lisburn primary school.
When she did finally visit her GP she explained that her sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer the previous year.
“Once the doctor heard that she red flagged my appointment with the specialist. A week and a half later, on October 31, 2016, I was having a mammogram and I just knew by the doctor’s demeanour it wasn’t good news,” she admits.
“‘I’m sorry to tell you it is breast cancer,’ he said. It had spread to the lymph nodes too – and a full mastectomy was advised right away. I had my operation two weeks later.”
Gruelling chemo followed; then daily radio therapy.
“Even though I’d contemplated it might be cancer when you hear those words… your world turns upside down. I felt like my life was on hold,” says Karen, who has always loved animals.
But as Karen struggled to cope with her gruelling cancer treatment, that became increasingly difficult and she faced heart-breaking decisions.
“The fatigue from the chemo was like nothing I’d ever experienced. There were days I couldn’t get off the sofa but I was very independent and didn’t like asking for help.
“Friends and family were great but the dogs needed regular long walks. Poor Lily was even putting on weight and I felt so guilty, so low.
“At one stage I’d to go into hospital for a week and the dogs had to be separated – one of my brothers took one and a friend the other. I don’t know what I’d have done without them but I knew this situation couldn’t go on.”
However, around then a Macmillan support worker told Karen about Rosie’s Trust, a Northern Ireland charity which matches volunteers with people whose poor health means they can’t look after their pets any more.
It’s a lifeline for many with support including dog walking, visits to vets, and even temporary foster care if an owner is admitted to hospital.
“I couldn’t believe such a service even existed. It was tailor made for us.” says Karen who was relieved when Lily immediately took to her new walker, Ruth. “Lily can be funny with strangers but I think they know when they can trust someone.
“It was lovely for me too that Ruth and the other friendly volunteers called because I felt so isolated. I looked forward to them calling as much as the dogs.
“The service had such a positive impact on how I coped with cancer. The dogs mean so much to me; I loved seeing them happy again.”
Now phasing her return to work, Karen is slowly resuming her much-missed outings with her dogs.
“The last couple of months I’ve started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and much of that is down to the charity – as well, of course, as our wonderful NHS.
“I thought life as I knew it was over when I got that diagnosis. Now, thanks to Rosie’s Trust, the girls and I are looking forward to a future of long walks!”
Rosie’s Trust is one of 10 groups receiving a share of £1,623,217 from Big Lottery Fund’s People and Communities programme.
The other groups receiving funding today are West Armagh Consortium, Huntington's Disease Association Northern Ireland, Time-4-Me, Granaghan & District Women's Group, (C.O.A.S.T.) Causeway Older & Active Strategic Team, Life Change Changes Lives, LCC Community Trust, Lotus Group NI, and Killinchy and District Community Carers Association. Find out more about these grants
Julie Harrison, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “I am delighted to announce these grants under the People and Communities programme and I want to say thanks to all the National Lottery players who have helped make this possible.
“We want to fund great projects that work with local people, build on a community’s strengths, and are well connected to other services and activities in the community. We are looking forward to seeing the positive impact these projects will make to people and communities across Northern Ireland.”
The People and Communities programme offers grants of between £30,000 and £500,000 for two to five year projects. More information can be found on our website www.biglotteryfund.org.uk or ring our enquiries line on 028 90 551 455.
For press enquiries call Lucy Gollogly or Rachel Skinner
Press Office: 02890 551 432 or 02890 551 450
Out of hours media contact: 07580 811135 or 0774 7532 846
Notes to Editors:
- The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
- Since June 2004 we have awarded over £6.5billion to projects that make a difference to people and communities in need, from early years intervention to commemorative travel funding for World War Two veterans.
- Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £35 billion has been raised and more than 490,000 grants awarded.