Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is promoting the health benefits of walking by helping to increase the number of local walking groups with trained leaders.
Five members of the Council’s Be Active for Health programme attended the online Walk Leader training course organised by the South Eastern Trust’s Health Development Department. This is a significant achievement for the members who regularly attended weekly Be Active for Health ‘walk and talk’ groups in Delamont Country Park and Castlewellan Forest Park prior to lockdown and now feel ready to support new members in the future. The new leaders can now volunteer to provide safe and enjoyable walks while promoting the health benefits from walking that they have personally experienced.
The Be Active for Health Programme is a district-wide initiative funded by the Council and the Southern and South Eastern Health Trusts. The aim is to support, encourage and provide bespoke physical activity opportunities for people who are inactive. Encouraging lifelong participation to reduce the risk of developing ill health or a long-term health condition, this is a referral only programme for adults who have been referred by a health professional. Throughout the pandemic, service delivery adapted to include online sessions, virtual walking challenges, safe outdoor exercise and weekly videos.
Two of the newly trained leaders, Tracey Quail from Downpatrick, and Janice Bennett from Killyleagh, explained how the time spent on the Be Active for Health programme with the Council’s Health Referral Coordinator Leanne Oakes had empowered them to grow on a personal level but also to help other people and groups within their own communities.
Tracey said, “The Be Active for Health programme has helped me so much, it has been a great lifeline for me, and I now feel strong enough to help other people. I really love and look forward to my walk and talk groups with Leanne as it has given me structure and confidence, and I have made new friends.”
Janice added, “This programme has been lifechanging for me in terms of my confidence, the support and encouragement received, and meeting new people. It has given me my get up and go! I now want to give back by becoming a walk leader.”
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin said, “It is extremely positive to hear how five women who originally availed of the Be Active for Health programme have now gone on to become volunteer walk leaders to help and support others.
“By gaining this new skill the leaders can now promote the benefit of physical activity, and specifically walking, on not only physical health, but also our mental health especially during these extremely difficult times. I wish to congratulate the ladies on their achievement and I am delighted that the Be Active for Health programme has helped them along their journey to great health.”
For more information on the Be Active for Health programme, please contact Leanne Oakes on 0330 137 4822.
Praises as Pupils Send Powerful Message on Domestic Violence
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has praised pupils from St Mary’s High School in Downpatrick for their efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence.
The school has been working with Women’s Aid on a special project to shine a light on the many issues faced by women and girls in today’s society.Their efforts include the release of a song and video, which is not only raising awareness, but is raising funds to support those affected by domestic abuse.
Speaking after a visit to the school, Michelle O’Neill said: “I was delighted to meet with the girls from St Mary’s in Downpatrick today to hear about their efforts to help tackle the abuse faced by so many women and girls across the community. They are a talented group of young people and their work to raise awareness of these crucial issues is very moving and incredibly powerful.
“The abuse, inequality and misogyny faced by women and girls of all ages is a brutal reality of our society. And, sadly, very many experience violence in their everyday lives. It is a problem that requires everyone’s urgent attention and action.
“As an Executive, we have committed to working together on a strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. But everyone has a responsibility to do all they can to help change attitudes and behaviours. The inspirational pupils at St Mary’s have done just that and I applaud them for the impactful and sensitive way they have dealt with this issue.
“I also commend the school for bringing this subject to the fore and supporting the students to tell the story.”
Given the ongoing Covid-19 measures in place across the schools community, the song was produced by recording individual voices and layering them to create the final version.
The deputy First Minister said: “Our schools and young people have had such a tough time throughout the pandemic. But they have innovated and adapted to do great things. It is wonderful to see how St Mary’s have used a creative approach to deliver this important message.”
St Mary’s Principal, Rosemary McLaughlin, said: “The Board of Governors and staff of St Mary’s High School are very proud of the girls who have used their talents in a positive way to highlight injustice in our society. The efforts they have made will really make a difference to Women’s Aid.
“We are an all girls’ school; and we recognise the need to empower our young women. We want to ensure that the girls know there are organisations out there that can help the victim and the perpetrator. As a school, we discussed the impact that the national lockdown had on women when the message was to stay at home. During lockdown, the increase in domestic abuse and violence against women was well documented by the media. Women’s Aid will now be able to use the much needed resources from this project to support families in the locality.”
Please Give Our Fire Crews Space to do Their Job
The Health Minister Robin Swann has paid tribute to firefighters from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) who are currently tackling a serious blaze in the Mourne Mountains.
NIFRS has declared a major incident and is escalating its operations in the area to bring the fire under control. A large number of resources will be in attendance and NIFRS has appealed to the public not to travel to the area, in particular Trassey Road, Bloody Bridge, Tollymore Forest and Donard Car Park.
The Minister said: “I’ve been shocked and deeply concerned to see the pictures of this devastating fire spreading across the Mournes. I have spoken to NIFRS Chief Fire and Rescue Officer Michael Graham to pay tribute to the crews.
“Our firefighters are working hard in extremely challenging circumstances and I want to thank them on behalf of the community for their bravery and commitment. They are taking huge risks to bring the fire under control and make the area safe.
“I would appeal to the public to help NIFRS in their vital work by avoiding Newcastle and the Mournes and allowing the crews to do their job safely and effectively. They must be able to get fire appliances, equipment and firefighters there as quickly as possible, so please do not drive to the area unnecessarily. The public should also avoid gathering or walking in the area. The ongoing incident in the Mournes is not a tourist attraction nor a photo opportunity. Spending long, tiring hours away from family is part of the sacrifice of our emergency services, who work to keep us all safe. Please help by giving our fire crews the space to do their job.”