Rural Housing Association has been shortlisted for two awards at this year’s Chartered Institute of Housing Awards, which will take place at the Europa Hotel on Friday 27th May. The Awards celebrate good practice within the housing sector across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and recognise and celebrate the creativity, passion, and innovation of housing organisations and individuals.
Rural Housing has been shortlisted in the “More Than Bricks or Mortar” Category for our Digital Connections Project, which is funded through The National Lottery Community Fund and provides regular online sessions for tenant panel members, including the provision of iPads for those tenants previously unable to access digital devices. The project encourages relationship building by supporting the development of social connections, whilst also working with tenants to improve their digital skills. This online project provides a safe virtual platform to facilitate tenant empowerment amongst rural residents who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The project provides regular online sessions where tenants can socialise, helping reduce the impact of social isolation, participate in skills development training, as well as providing an online think tank where tenants can voice their concerns on issues impacting them and their communities during COVID-19 and beyond. As part of the project Rural Housing has been working in partnership with Ignite IT to manage the security and safety of tenants online including working with tenants to safely set up iPads, email accounts, zoom accounts etc. Over the coming months Ignite IT will also deliver a range of training sessions requested by tenants such as shopping safely online, avoiding scams, using apps safely and keeping your iPad/ tablet secure.
Rural Housing Association has also been shortlisted in the “Working in Partnership category” for our Brilliant Resilience Project. The Brilliant Resilience Project is a partnership between Rural Housing Association and Community Arts Partnership, funded by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and the Prince’s Countryside Fund to “renew and inspire access to opportunity through creative skills training in photography, storytelling and crochet in Fermanagh.” The project was shaped in response to the needs of particularly the older generation, with Fermanagh residents expressing a need to reconnect with others in their community following a long period of lockdown.
The project commenced in Spring 2021 during a COVID-19 lockdown and would continue throughout the summer of 2021, with a final exhibition in Autumn 2021. The changing restrictions required an innovative and flexible approach to project delivery, with the start of the project focusing on the delivery of 100 arts packs to the homes of older people, aimed at combating the impact of social isolation and loneliness. Alongside these art packs the project captured 100 doorsteps portraits of local Fermanagh people in the midst of a global pandemic, images which tell the tale of the resilience and strength of Fermanagh residents.
In June 2021, the project switched to face-to-face delivery (socially distanced), with the implementation of a range of arts-based projects including photography classes, storytelling sessions and crochet classes for older adults across Fermanagh. Connecting the process of ‘creative making’ with ‘wellbeing’ and in particular resilience was at the core of the project. By working together with local community organisations and older persons groups operating across Fermanagh, Rural Housing Association and Community Arts Partnership were able to deliver a partnership project that helped improve the wellbeing of residents across Fermanagh, by reconnecting people who had been through a long and at times lonely period of lockdown.
A final exhibition entitled “The Good Room” took place in September 2021, it was a celebration of the resilience of Fermanagh people and celebrated stories, images and artwork created by older people from across Fermanagh, helping participants feel a sense of achievement as their work was showcased on a public stage.