How the village community rallied during the lockdown

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Food is often said to have the ability to bring people together, and that certainly has been the case in South Belfast, where it has been used to maintain bonds within the community throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

In the village area, the Greater Village Regeneration Trust has set up a series of projects to help local families and vulnerable people during the lockdown.

Ranging from mindfulness packs for kids to family kitchens, they had to find creative ways to support each other through a tough year.

Speaking to Belfast Live, GVRT’s Angela Johnston highlighted the success of their recent pizza bakes which have seen over 170 families from Donegall Road, Village and Sandy Row come together and cook together.

The organization purchases pizza-making kits from Streamvale Farm’s Moo to You grocery department, with the kits themselves supplied by Sorellina restaurant in East Belfast.

Angela said: “We have just completed the third cycle of our pizza preparations, in which more than 170 families in the area have participated.

“We then had a Zoom night where everyone who could participate came and I helped them talk to them about the cooking process while we taught the kids a bit about nutrition and how they can make their favorite meals even more. healthy.

“It was a really fun thing to do and those who couldn’t join the Zoom sent us wonderful photographs of their children making their pizzas.”

Angela said that in the future they will host even more family kitchens, where those who sign up will receive their fresh ingredients before they learn how to cook a new dish each week.

The program is also designed to help tackle food poverty in the region, as many families in Belfast will have noticed an increase in their food bills due to everyone being at home a lot more than usual.

Angela said: “This basically helps us tackle food poverty in the region and provide some support to parents who may be struggling with their food bills with their out-of-school children. Some will get around £ 2 a day for their children if they get free school meals, but there are also a lot of parents on leave or part-time leave and they struggle with those bills.

“I know my food bill has gone up by around £ 50 per week because the kids are at home and I know other parents will as well.”



Some of the children happy with their pizza creations

Along with its work helping local families, GVRT has also supported the elderly and vulnerable in their area with meals created in partnership with the Old Tear Room on Shankill Road.

Angela said: “We have delivered freshly prepared meals to just over 100 seniors over the past few months, so we are just entering our March phase.

“Thanks to our partnership with the Ancien Salon de Thé, all dishes are prepared fresh and therefore only need to be reheated.

“The community was very responsive to what we did and it was nice to be able to have a little nudge with some of the grannies on the doorstep and to catch up on what happened. Most of them wanted to participate and help us with a few things, so it was very rewarding in that sense.

GVRT also helped the younger members of their community during the lockdown with storytelling and mindfulness packs to help them when they weren’t in school.

Angela said, “At GVRT Fit for Life Gym we have delivered many packs throughout the community.

“We have our story packs through a workshop called Still I Rise, which features stories with good morals and values ​​that also teach children about various issues such as migration and disabilities, and there is a discussion afterwards for help them understand in more detail.



Angela Johnston

“We’re also starting our mindfulness packs with a bit of a focus on journaling, offering different ones for older and younger kids who may have developed a bit of anxiety while on lockdown.

“We’re just trying to keep the kids positive because it’s been so hard for them. On March 8, only P1 to P3 were allowed to go back, so others may feel left out. Especially in families where maybe one child goes back to school and another doesn’t.

“Then you have the high school kids with only high school going back and first, second and third years not going back and trying to connect with services that they haven’t really used before. I understand why some are anxious and afraid to go back to school and maybe have a hard time committing to their work.

Over Christmas, GVRT, in collaboration with TreeCo, organized a special Santa sleigh tour for families in their area, which turned out to be a huge success.

As a result, they will now do something similar and bring the Easter Bunny into the community this year to give our eggs to the local children.

Angela said: “We’ve been really busy, but we’re just trying to support as many people as possible throughout the lockdown and make sure people are okay because it’s been a crazy time.

“But it’s been nice to be able to bring people together through these projects and we can continue to build in the future when things get a bit more normal.”


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