RATH helping to bridge gap between residents and organisations

A Newtownabbey-based community group, which was formed three years ago to help residents in the local area, has provided vital support during the height of Covid restrictions.

RATH community group was founded in April 2019 to help connect already existing organisations in the Rathcoole estate.

Detailing what inspired the group’s leaders to start the body, a spokesperson stated: “The group was established as we felt the need for a community group to bridge the already existing groups in the area, because with the estate being so large, we felt we could help residents by working alongside the already established groups to provide cohesion and help direct people to the existing support services.

“The activities undertaken by the group vary throughout the year. One of the most successful initiatives we have been involved in has been the local ‘Row on Row’ project, which we run alongside our friends in Dalaradia. The scheme recognises those who perished during the World Wars, sacrificing their lives for our freedom.

Members of RATH helped to provide festive cheer during the Covid pandemic.

“The project provided an opportunity for members of the local community to pay their respects over the last two years, particularly when Royal British Legion Remembrance Services were curtailed during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Rathcoole is the second largest housing estate in Europe and we feel it is a travesty our estate does not have a memorial garden in memory of the great men and women of the World Wars. We hope one can be built in the future.”

As well as helping to commemorate Newtownabbey’s veterans and war fallen, members of RATH have been at the forefront of helping to provide a physical outlet for disabled residents.

The spokesperson explained: “Another thing which has been successful for us is the establishment of a disability football team, Antrim Newtownabbey Disability FC. It is currently the only such team in the borough, catering for both male and female ambulant players and has around 50 members ranging in ages from seven to 14 for the junior sides and 15 plus for the senior team.

Antrim Newtownabbey Disability FC caters for male and female players.

“We train on a Wednesday evening and we are always open to welcoming new players, no matter what your ability or playing level is.

“When the Irish Football Association Disability League starts back again we hope to be participating in this and other tournaments such as the George Best Community Cup.”

Female members of Rath also established the TOM project in a move to tackle sanitary poverty within Rathcoole estate and the surrounding areas. The programme provides free products and advice to those in need.

Within a year of the group’s formation, RATH’s 15 members and associated volunteers found their services in demand due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the community group stepping-up to help support vulnerable residents in the Rathcoole area.

Detailimg the impact of the restrictions on the Dunanney Centre group’s activities, the spokesperson added: “During Covid-19 our group continuously worked through the pandemic collecting prescriptions, delivering food, and making wellbeing packs funded by numerous agencies including Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, as well as a £16k investment to our group by Bryson to help people with essestial supplies such as gas, food, electrictricity and brand new white goods and electronic tablets.

“We have also helped Rathcoole PS with brand new reading books and stationary to every primary pupil and also provided items to the nursery unit. This was all possible thanks to a Lottery ‘Awards For All’ grant we recieved.”

Looking ahead to further successful initiatives, the spokesperson concluded: “Our plans for the next year are to continue to make our estate the best wee place it can and show how great the people of Rathcoole are when we all stick together.”

For more information, check out the RATH Community Group Facebook page, Antrim and Newtownabbey Disability FC on social media and the TOM Project on Facebook.

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