Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland is working in partnership with St Michael’s Parish Church, off the Shankill Road, on a new community building project which will serve people across west Belfast.
Habitat volunteers of all backgrounds are helping to refurbish St Michael’s parish hall in Craven Street. To date, volunteers have included young people taking part in Habitat’s cross-community ChangeMakers Programme which explores social justice and active citizenship with 16 -18 year olds.
Carrickfergus Grammar School and St Dominic’s Grammar School for Girls are just two of the schools who have worked together onsite. Work is closely supervised by trained professionals and includes cleaning, sanding, painting and basic construction.
Jenny Williams, Chief Executive of Habitat NI, said: “Since our founding in 1994, breaking down barriers between divided communities has been at the heart of our work. Thousands of volunteers have worked on Habitat community-building projects, in Northern Ireland and around the world. In our experience, when volunteers from different backgrounds engage in practical projects, like this one, meaningful relationships are developed based on understanding.
“We are very excited about this partnership with St Michael’s Parish. When the leadership of the church committed to invest in improving their hall they focused not only on the building but on what could be achieved through the project. It is about much more than four walls and a roof; it is bringing people together to help build a strong, inclusive community,” Mrs Williams continued.
Social action projects, advertised across west Belfast, will be hosted in the newly refurbished halls. These will include activities such as a Christians Against Poverty job club and support with free debt counselling services; budgeting and money management courses, a life-skills course; a ‘Dinner Time Drama’ group for primary aged children; and a social and sports group for older people.
The Rev Canon James Carson, Minister-in-Charge of St Michael’s said: “Our church’s vision is to serve the local community. Our hope is that this project will have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of people of all ages; actively demonstrating God’s love by bringing people together to build relationships and trust, and restore hope.”
St Michael’s parish halls were built around 1980. Over the years they have become dated, and one of the largest rooms, the Moore Room, is an excellent space which hadn’t been used for some time, said Heather Carson, Parish Development Officer.
Now it is painted and tidied up, the Moore Room will have something of a re-birth, and will be used for many of the activities outlined above. “Having this space is key to our community outreach,” said Heather.
Around 150 pupils from a total of 17 schools will have taken part in the project at St Michael’s by the time it is complete.
To learn more about Habitat’s work visit habitatni.co.uk.