The Galliagh Women’s Group doesn’t have spank new premises, it doesn’t have a state-of-the -art modern centre to deliver its range of services. While a building of that kind might be welcomed, the determined group of women who run the organisation certainly don’t need it to make a practical difference to countless speople on the ground in their local community. It’s a job they’ve been doing for years and, as with most community organisations, they are busier than ever.
The organisation have made more links than ever in the area they serve and beyond. Under the leadership of Co-ordinator Rosie Doherty and Chairperson Marie Gillespie, they’re determined to build even stronger foundations looking ahead to 2014. As welfare reform continues to wreak havoc in the lives of the most vulnerable people in society, the women at the coalface of the cuts say they’re pleased that they can keep delivering where it counts.
Among a range of services, one of the most important to operate from the Women’s Group is the dedicated advice service manned by local advice expert Jimmy Doherty.
“The women’s group established their advice service in April 2012 and in a very short period of time the volume of people who came forward from across the city and beyond was remarkable. On average, we see 20 people per day at our Knockalla Park offices. These people are either seeking information on benefits or requesting representation at appeal tribunals. Having worked for over 25 years in the advice field I would say, without question, that this has become the most critical time for people who are dependant, older, vulnerable and disabled. These people are already feeling the full impact of welfare reform, even without its full implementation of the Stormont Executive.”
With some confusion locally in recent months over the delivery of the advice service, Jimmy adds:
“I will continue to deliver advice to all who require it from our office at 20 Knockalla Park. I’m here for the long haul for all those in the area who need advice in terms of their benefits, their financial situations or representation.”
Women’s Group co-ordinator Rosie Doherty says the advice service is a crucial element to the work the women’s group does.
So too, she says, is their continued strong focus on health.
Through their strong partnership with Action Cancer, the local group were the first to bring the ‘Big Bus’ into the heart of their community.
More recently, they’ve worked together with the formidable Pink Ladies.
“All the work we do in this sector is about raising awareness around serious illness, and encouraging women to keep on top of their health because, as we all know, early intervention is key.
“As well as that, through our work with Action Cancer and the Pink Ladies, we’re able to deliver complimentary therapies to those dealing with diagnosis, illness and recovery. That’s something we offer locally on the ground here in Galliagh every week.”
Recognising the need for strong partnerships locally, Rosie adds: “No group can work in isolation. Partnerships are essential so that we can get the quickest possible responses to the individuals in our community who need us, be that someone who’s struggling with their money or their physical or mental health.”
The women’s group also operates a counselling service and have a strong focus on the health and wellbeing of the entire family with Neighbourhood Health Improvement Officer for the area, Natalie Logue, who is based at their Galliagh Park centre.
“I cover the whole of the Outer North area and work in strong partnership with the women’s group,” says Natalie.
“We also work closely with Action Cancer and and we have a very effective men’s health group. We educate around issues like physical activity and healthy eating and recently we’ve joined forces with the Conservation Volunteers to begin a new ‘grow your own’ initiative where training will be provided for local people who want to learn more about growing their own vegetables.”
According to Rosie, a huge number of people in the area see the Women’s Group as their one stop local shop in terms of health and wellbeing.
“People can come to us and whether they need to speak to Natalie regarding health, or Jimmy regarding to advice or even one of us about any other issues they might have, there’s always a listening ear.
“Over recent years we’ve also worked with women from Caw in a cross-community project which has allowed many women here to forge new friendships they never thought possible.
“Our hope, as we look ahead to 2014, is that the Galliagh Women’s Group can continue to make a difference to people as they go about their everyday lives.
“That’s essentially why we’re here.”