A blog profile introducing Roisin McLaughlin and the importance of The Ideas Fund in North West Northern Ireland
Roisin has over 16 years’ experience of leading up and working on community projects. She lives and works in Derry and is currently the Manager of the North West Community Network – an organisation that works to develop and support the community and voluntary sector in the North West region of Northern Ireland. The Network is working in partnership with The Ideas Fund in the Derry & Strabane District Council area, alongside Developing Healthy Communities.
Roisin also represents the community and voluntary sector on the Derry City & Strabane District Council Strategic Growth Partnership. She has a wide range of experience in designing and managing peace-building, capacity building and civic activism projects and in facilitating discussions using a wide range of engagement tools. She has designed and delivered anti-racism and anti-sectarianism training programmes within schools and the community and has carried out evaluations for many projects, including sensitive projects related to mental health and wellbeing.
She is Vice Chair of the Holy Family Primary School Board of Governors in Derry and is also one of the Community Fellows appointed to undertake a Community Fellowship role with Ulster University, based at the Magee Campus, Derry.
How would you describe mental wellbeing overall in Derry & Strabane? What are the challenges and opportunities?
“Historically we have had a lot of challenges to deal with – the aftermath of all sorts of trauma and we as an area have been under-resourced for a long time – and we continue to deal with these to the present day. There are high levels of deprivation in Derry and Strabane, we have many people in our community who have turned to drugs and alcohol and a high suicide rate. And more recently, we have had the impact of the pandemic, which has resulted in an increase in anxiety and depression for many”.
“However, there are opportunities. I heard a phrase recently which I thought was very insightful: ‘never let a crisis go to waste’. The community sector has had to develop different approaches to deliver support and services and some groups have come together to deliver support in ways they have never done before. There is an opportunity now to harness the passion and kindness that individuals and groups have demonstrated during the pandemic, and to support community activists to realise some of the mental wellbeing initiatives that they have been thinking about.”
What makes Derry & Strabane a good fit for The Ideas Fund – are there specific characteristics that mean it is likely that local people will be keen to get involved and put forward ideas?
“We have a very strong and vibrant community and voluntary sector in the Derry and Strabane area. People are actually amazing in the ideas that they have come up with and there is a drive within the sector to address our mental health challenges. As an area, people often come together when a crisis arises, so we have had a lot of interest so far and people are keen to get support for their ideas! Our sector is very innovative and open to trying out new ways of working. Many who have not had the opportunity before are keen to work in partnership with the researchers.”
What difference could The Ideas Fund make in Derry & Strabane?
“I think it will make a huge difference to our area. The Ideas Fund will in itself give people hope and provide the opportunity for individuals and groups to realise the ideas that they have to improve mental wellbeing within the community. This is also an opportunity for groups to come together and to make more connections. That’s always a good thing! The pairing with researchers will make a big difference, too, and I think this will have a lasting effect on groups. I can see the links and relationships that will develop continuing after the funding comes to an end.”
How to get in touch
Call Roisin on 07889 727013