KEEPING WOMEN IN THE NORTH WEST CONNECTED DURING COVID-19

Card with the quote 'this too shall pass" typed on it.

COVID-19 means that the goalposts have been changed for the community development sector. But for Foyle Women's Information Network in DerryLondonderry, working to keep women connected remains the same.

For decades, Foyle Women's Information Network have been working with women across all communities in the north-west of Northern Ireland to combat sectarianism, poverty and social isolation. Our goal is create communities of friendship and shared experience in this region. With the onset of COVID-19, the organisation faced a new challenge - keeping connected in times of social distancing.

With thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund for Northern Ireland, Foyle Women's Information Network were able to send out social isolation packs to over 350 women. Enclosed in these parcels were self-care gifts, positive affirmations, a journal, pen and a stamped postcard so that recipients can pay the goodwill forward and send a handwritten note to someone they are thinking of.

In these times of social isolation, the already high numbers of mental health sufferers in the Derry-Londonderry area is increasing exponentially. By sending out parcels in the post, women received a tangible reminder of their importance to us, to each other and to the community.

And certainly, the response was overwhelming. Says Angela O'Donnell, "I never thought receiving a parcel could bring so much joy, I was like a child at Christmas." "I want to thank you very much for my lovely gift box," said Louise Lafferty. "This brightened me up so much." So too for Gwen Millar, who requested a box for her mother currently in isolation: "She was so happy to receive her wee gift... She felt special and cared about by yourselves."

In addition, thanks to The Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland, Foyle Women's Information Network have curated a daily online events series accessible to all via their Facebook page. Classes and activities range from crafts to cookery as well as live music and mental health strategies to help keep women - both rural and urban - connected, to develop their skills and maximise their input to social, educational and political development within local areas as well as at a strategic level within Northern Ireland.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Foyle Women’s Information Network are a charitable organisation based in DerryLondonderry. FWIN was formed in 1994.

For more information, please contact the FWIN Co-ordinator – Catherine Cooke, email: info@fwin.org.uk