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‘Heart-warming’ project wins national environmental award

The inter-generational project moved judges to tears.

An inter-generational project based in a County Derry town has won a national award for eco-health and wellbeing after moving the judging panel to tears.

Ballinascreen Fold, supported by S.T.E.P.S. and Men’s Shed, teamed up with St Colm’s High School and Cornerstone Youth Club in Draperstown for the award-winning project, which allowed the students to socialise with elderly members of their community.

The initiative was led by Michelle Belaid, Youth Leader at Cornerstone Youth Club, with inspiration coming from Nancy Hegarty, a member of Ballinascreen Fold.

Their success was announced last Thursday following an online awards ceremony streamed live from Dublin, and after the ceremony Nancy hailed it as transformative.

“This project has transformed residents’ lives,” she said.

“Residents took ownership of the garden, applied for a small grant and have now invested in a greenhouse, now growing their own plants and vegetables.

“I am very proud of the young people and look forward to working with them in the future.”

The group created an eco-friendly garden for residents in the fold, many of whom were unable to carry out this kind of work.

Fold members were delighted at the results, which included erecting bird boxes, feeders and fat balls, as well as weeding overgrown areas and planting wildflowers in the garden.

Throughout the project, the young people maintained the garden, carrying out litter clean-ups in the parish alongside local primary schools.

Entertainments nights were held in the fold for the young people, who visited the residents regularly, while Cornerstone Youth Club also hosted pizza and quiz nights for fold members.

The project was supported by local charities S.T.E.P.S. and the Men’s Shed, who advised the young people on inclusion activities for the health and wellbeing of pupils and fold members.

Covid-19 may have curtailed plans to create a wildflower garden feature and seating from recycled materials, but the young people have sent cards insisting they will return to the fold after the crisis has eased.

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