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Newry Felons Association has received a grant of £4,300 from the Public Health Agency for a Building Strength Project to help people aged 55 plus reengage following the worst stages of the pandemic. The Ex-Prisoners group aims to tackle social isolation and declining health experienced during the lockdown periods throughout local communities.

Newry Felons Association was established in 2014 to help relieve poverty among ex-prisoners and their families by advice and assistance in Newry City. The Felons advances education through the provision of free training and educational courses and development programmes and programmes to improve quality of health and wellbeing.

The Felons community garden
The Felons community garden

The Chairperson of Newry Felons Association Frank Johnston outlined the project.  Frank said "We all know how devastating Coronavirus is, whilst large numbers of people aged 55 and over have been vaccinated the threats remains high. However, we want to move forward to help reduce the high levels of social, physical, and psychological impacts of the lockdown periods.

"Our Building Strength project aims to tackle these difficulties and setbacks with a varied and interesting programme of social and learning activities including Basic Upholstery Courses, Reminiscence Sessions, a Walking Group, Gardening Skills, Creative Team Building and Talks on Physical and Mental Health issues."

Johnston added "In recent years, we developed a Community Garden in partnership with Barcroft Community Association and Newry Mourne and Down District Council. This new project is open to people aged 55 and over who are either an Ex-prisoner, Unemployed, Socially Isolated, have Physical or Mental Health Difficulties or Addictions. People are calling out for help; this project is laying the foundations to build a community wide response to declining health and wellbeing in the Newry area."

Thanking the PHA Johnston concluded "We extend our deepest gratitude to The Public Health Agency, CLEAR and Developing Healthy Communities for allocating the funding. We are indebted to Barcroft Community Association for supporting the project and The Confederation of Community Groups for their assistance with the funding application. Anyone interested in the project can call to the Barcroft Community Garden and complete a registration form. We are looking forward to supporting people during the project, Go raibh mile maith agaibh."

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