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Great experience in new funding line! by RUTH SMITH and SARA BOURKE Knockanrawley Resource Centre (KRC) in Tipperary Town recently completed an EU Gruntvig Project. As you may remember, 2003 was a year characterised by the end of the enhanced funding and also insecure funding from other sources. We, like other CDPs, needed to review the situation and to investigate external funding options, not tied to the Irish economic situation and political flavour of the month.

The Irish Social Learning Circle (SHE) In Knockanrawley Resource Centre’s Organic Garden. The women in the photo are, left to right: Marie Ryan, Kathleen Moroney, Liz Higgins, Tracy Taylor, Dolores O'Donovan, Alison O'Maloney, Pat Ryan, Ruth Smith and Bridget Peters.

We put our names and general interests up on the Leargas database where organisations seek partners for EU projects. We made email contact with some groups and had discussions, but with no immediate results. In the autumn of 2003, we received a call out of the blue from George Isaias in Cyprus. He was co-ordinating a project on self-esteem, and two of his partners had dropped out. He invited us to take up a place in his project. This meant we had to investigate the project and decide quickly on whether to get involved or not. This was hard because of our lack of experience in the field, and we did not want to make a bad judgement call. There were a number of highly participative management meetings, and eventually we decided to leap off the EU project cliff! The SHE (Social skills and Healthier selfEsteem) project was developed with women over 40 who for a range of personal, social, or educational reasons were identified as having low self esteem: The project aimed to strengthen the participants’ self-esteem through their participation in facilitated social learning circles. The SHE programme was run in three countries (Cyprus, Spain and Ireland) over 80 hours during 2004-5, and a facilitators guide was developed through the practical work with these women’s groups. The guide was designed to assist group facilitators and teachers to set-up and run social learning circles on self-esteem for groups at risk of social exclusion. It can also be used to integrate self-esteem principles and methods into other courses working with such groups. Examples from the three SHE courses (Cyprus, Ireland & Spain) are woven through the guide to illustrate points as they arise. This took up huge chunks of time drafting and redrafting. In KRC the learning circle involved ten

women. Over the year they had a holistic experience through personal development, community art, outings and stress management. Final evaluation showed that the group had been a great success and so it was mainstreamed into the centre as a KRC women’s group. It was wonderful to have the freedom and resources to allow the group to develop organically. For KRC this was our first independent EU project and it was a learning circle in itself. Working with different cultures and countries was challenging and more time consuming than we initially planned for. However, it was good to learn that our practice was well up with that in other countries, and at times we led the consortium. It gave us an opportunity to explore a pure personal development group and underpinned our belief that without selfesteem and personal development work, real change cannot occur. In terms of transnational experience there were three meetings during the project, two in Cyprus and one in Barcelona, which were attended by staff and volunteers. Briefly, our experience of the EU project was positive. When doing one again, we will make sure that there are adequate resources at our end to complete the project with less stress. It was new and challenging work. We found that with all the activities that go on in the centre, it was sometimes hard to prioritise SHE. We will also ensure good communication structures and that the project workplan evenly divides up the tasks and that each partner meets their obligations. A final positive – SHE gave us an opportunity to learn about EU projects, to learn from other organisations and to develop and empower our own organisation around the work that we do well. So if other CDPs are considering an EU project, we would say "go for it", but don’t

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underestimate the time involved. If anyone would like to chat to us, please don’t hesitate. The partners in the project were Synthesis Centre for Research and Education in Cyprus, Knockanrawley Resource Centre in Ireland (Ruth Smith and Sara Bourke), the University of Cyprus, and European Profiles S.A. in Greece and the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation. The co-ordinator of the project was George Isaias, Synthesis Centre for Research and Education. Information about EU projects and resources is available on the Leargas website http://www.leargas.ie. Information about this project and the guide are available on the Internet http://www.eushe.org or directly from Ruth Smith, Knockanrawley Resource Centre, Tipperary Town, 062 52688, Knockanrawley@eircom.net

Seeking funding - great website COMHAIRLE, the national agency responsible for supporting the provision of information, advice and advocacy on social services, has a special section for voluntary organisations in its ‘Support for Information Providers’ part of its website. Log on to www.comhairle.ie and you’ll find the Resource Database for Voluntary and Community Sectors provides a Directory of Community Organisations, information and documents on funding, managing volunteers, establishing an organisation, and other resources. Comhairle also run the Citizen Information Phone Service and the Citizen Information Centres. Thanks to Donegal Community Workers Co-op newsletter for tipping us off on this one . . .

email editor@changingireland.ie

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