County Down Rural Community Network got this years Annual General Meeting on 9th October off to a cracking start with a visit to the brand new Saintfield Community Centre. Attendees were then transported to the beautiful setting of Castleward for a hot meal accompanied by the delightful Maria Boyle on harp. The evening was an opportunity for networking among attendees before County Down Rural Community Network’s (CDRCN) official Annual General Meeting commenced.
Alan Dumigan, Chair CDRCN, invited Charlie Casey, Chair of NMDDC, to speak. Cllr Casey welcomed everyone to CDRCN’s 24th AGM. He acknowledged community volunteers and partners from across Ards, North Down, Newry, Mourne & Down and South Armagh. He paid tribute to everyone involved in Saintfield Community Centre. Cllr Casey stated it was a brilliant example of Council working well with Community and Voluntary Sector to answer the need in rural areas. He stated that the Network is a key community partner for the Council. “We have worked with you for nearly 25 years and this partnership has intensified in the years since the councils merged into one.
The Chair of Council stated that he was aware that CDRCN’s 24th AGM’s theme is very focussed on health in the broadest sense. New projects this year include social prescribing – helping people who present to their local GP to get out and about in their local area. New investment in multi-disciplinary teams in GP practices in Down is now being rolled out to the rest of Newry and Mourne. The network is central to that roll-out and CDRCN’s experience of social prescribing makes the organisation a great source of referrals to local community activities.
Cllr Casey said that County Down Network along with Community Advice and other umbrella support organisations are key to the delivery of Council services. He stated that he was grateful to the network and especially to the hundreds of groups and thousands of volunteers who work away, day and night with no financial reward to make sure this area is a safe, pleasant and prosperous place to live, work and play.
Alan Dumigan, Chairperson for the Network thanked the outgoing Management Committee for their time and expertise in bringing the Network forward. He acknowledged Board member Doris Noe of Lecale Conservation, who has contributed her time, energy and expertise over the last number of years to the Organisation and he wished her well in her retirement from the board. He thanked the community groups for their ongoing support and the Management and staff for their continued commitment.
Dr Chris Leggett was guest speaker of the evening and he recalled the long association with the community network and the exciting new developments. He acknowledged the importance of projects tackling social isolation and poverty and the need to address mental health and suicide in our local area.
Nicholas McCrickard, network manager presented the work of the organisation and reported that an increasing range of activities and projects were delivered to a high standard. He thanked the board and staff for a fabulous year and acknowledged that the community and voluntary sector from Bangor to Crossmaglen was a thriving and creative place which was tackling issues relating to health, the economy, the environment and much more. “Working together with the local Councils and Government departments is key to our success. Our communities have a powerful voice coupled with large numbers of willing volunteers and we have risen to the challenge of tackling mental and physical health problems”.
The evening concluded with a fascinating talk from Raphael Mason, photographer, on how photography can impact on people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Attendees were treated to a wonderful video collection of captured scenery from around the County Down area with collaborations from Men’s groups.