Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie today visited Cloona Oasis Centre in west Belfast.
She took part in a Cultural Day at the Centre, where performers from across the community, including cheerleaders from Sandy Row, Irish dancers and Ulster Scots musicians, entertained local families. Ms Ritchie planted a tree to mark the start of work on business units at the site, which are being partly funded by over £350,000 from DSD.
She commented: “Today’s event has been a particularly enjoyable opportunity for me to see the variety of activities taking place at Cloona Oasis Centre. The story of the Centre is one of a local community working together with statutory bodies to identify and tackle local problems. It typifies just what an Oasis should be – a place of peace, safety or happiness.
“A strong and progressive community can only come about through integration and inclusion. The range of projects offered at the Centre is an excellent illustration of how a partnership approach can make a real difference to the lives of local people.”
The Cloona Oasis Centre already delivers a wide variety of services in an area faced by social and economic disadvantage. These include training, counselling and activity programmes. The six planned Units will be available at an affordable rate for use by local community groups and businesses. They will be located on 1.25 acres of land around Cloona House. Funding for the £600,000 project is being provided by DSD, the International Fund for Ireland and Lisburn City Council.
The Minister continued: “The planned new business units represent the next stage in the evolution of services provided by Cloona Oasis Centre. They will help nurture community activity and enterprise, by providing affordable facilities for use by local businesses and groups. My Department is to the fore in the development of community empowerment in this part of the city; indeed, we have already provided funding of around £3m to such activity in the Colin area. The funding for the Units has been provided under Neighbourhood Renewal, which includes an objective to develop economic activity in the most disadvantaged areas. I am determined that through continued collective efforts we can, and will, make sure that Neighbourhood Renewal has a significant impact on the lives of many people.”
Speaking at the launch Denis Rooney, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, which contributed £225,000 to the scheme, said that the project was a wonderful example of how a community could strive to create a better future for its area.
He said: “The drive and vision shown by Cloona Oasis Centre are proof that this community wants to move forward and create a better, shared future for this area.
“These new facilities are about more than attracting new businesses, they are also about strengthening and underpinning community life for the years to come. Everyone involved in this project is to be congratulated for their vision for the area and I am delighted to be able to give our wholehearted support to the scheme.”
Chairman of Lisburn City Council’s Economic Development Committee, Councillor Allan Ewart added: “Lisburn City Council has been working with Cloona Oasis Centre for some years now to bring this new development forward and is pleased to continue to support Cloona Oasis Centre in its activities to bring much needed new business and job opportunities to the area.”
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