We wanted to deliver facilitated sessions with our current ‘Plough On’ Programme groups to look at the sustainability of the programme beyond the 18 months of Lottery funding we received for them.
We delivered seven sessions over January and February of 2023. The seven groups are made up of gentlemen from local communities and their ideas and suggestions inform the content of the monthly meetings/trips. The facilitated workshops delivered through Elevate engaged the men directly in conversations around the future sustainability of groups. Facilitated session began with a warm-up whereby men had to chat to the person sitting beside them and after a few minutes of conversation, introduce them to the group having discovered one talent/skill and one thing they are looking forward to. The conversation then shifted to asking the men their thoughts on what was good about Plough On and why it was important and lastly, they were given a scenario whereby the group was finishing, and they had to come up with ideas on how to keep it going. These were all useful prompts which generated plenty of conversation.
As an organisation, it has helped us realise that part of our work is very firmly grounded in Community Development, we just didn't use that language. It has also shown us that we are doing important work in helping to tackle some of the issues around health inequalities and allowed us to develop new links to continue to raise awareness of our work. The facilitated sessions gave participants the opportunity to reflect on the difference the Plough On project has made to them. The timing of the sessions was very apt as the groups had been running for about 16 months at that point and as such the men were very comfortable talking quite openly about the mental health benefits the project has afforded them, which is one of our core aims. We also want to reduce social isolation for older farmers in rural communities and again, the importance of having a regular meeting to come out to, where food/refreshments were provided was highlighted in the facilitated sessions. It has also prompted men to offer to help with the organising of monthly meetings, showing a confidence and willing to help for the benefit of the group.
As a well-established charitable organisation, the main focus was on the delivery of the project and discussing the main themes and challenges which arose from the sessions we delivered with our groups. Our mentors Aidan and Charlene from Arc HLC, were good sounding boards as they work with older groups in rural communities so understood some of the challenges we were coming up against. We have made a few new connections that will be useful, not only to our Plough On project, but also to the wider work of Rural Support, both at a very local level to deliver training and a broader piece on raising awareness of the services we offer.
We gained a better understanding of the social determinants of health and health inequalities experienced in communities. We increase our knowledge on Community development values and the power of local knowledge and engagement in health promotion. We shared key learning from the training at our fortnightly team meetings and explored how they relate to several areas of our work. The training has informed how we engage with the participants of our Plough On project to ensure we are maximising the benefit for them. It has also made us more aware of some of the other factors that have the potential to affect the health and wellbeing of our participants, given that they are from rural communities with limited access to services. The training has shown us some of the ways our work is helping to address health inequalities which in turn has given us the confidence to frame the various health benefits of this project more explicitly.
We hope to look at opportunities with our mentor, Arc HLC, to work in partnership to raise awareness of services across Fermanagh. We also hope to work with one of our group members, to deliver training for the farming community through their community venue.
"The Elevate programme is a great opportunity as it not only provides funding for impactful projects, no matter how small, but it also provides great opportunities for networking, learning and building relationships which can support and inform your work long beyond the duration of the funding. "
Keelin McGartland, Project Co-Ordinator, Rural Support