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Heart Of The Community

The dictionary describes the word community as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. I, along with many other people, would like the word community to hold a much heavier weight; to strike a larger chord.

We can all agree that 2016 may have been a year to forget; the hate got louder, the world grew somehow even crazier, and people have very little to smile about these days.

Community, a sense of friendship among our neighbours, is one thing we must fight to hold onto.

In Dublin 8, one non-profit organisation is leading the way.

The Fountain Resource Group (FRG) is a non-profit community organisation providing a range of free community services in the Dublin 8 area.

The FRG dates all the way back to December, 1991, when local Parish moderator Father Denis Laverty sought to fix the social problems plaguing the Dublin 8 area. The city centre of Dublin was seeing rapid growth, with places on the outskirts like Dublin 8 being side-lined in terms of investment and development.

The Dublin 8 we see today is an emerging hub of activity; from new bars, cafes and restaurants, to a sea of bustling students and young professionals, to the wave of new families settling into an ever growing area.

May be hard to believe, but back in 1991, Dublin 8 was suffering from a lack of community togetherness; social exclusion, poverty and chronic unemployment were just some of the major issues Father Laverty set out to tackle.

The standard of education in the area was very low due to high levels of early school leaving. Also an issue, the high levels of social marginalization in the James’ Street area, which led to a vicious circle of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and family breakdown.

In that December of 1991, Father Laverty called a meeting of all the community and voluntary groups to see what could be done to improve the area.

Those present that day expressed the same deep concerns felt by Father Laverty; something urgent had to be done to strategize community development. From this, the Fountain Resource Group was formed, and the organisation has grown immensely since.

The FRG strived from the outset to begin a social partnership within the community of Dublin 8.

In order to achieve this; the FRG had to first outline the major steps needed to transform the community vision and spirit. They examined the problems and gaps in social services and supports, and found massive holes in many areas. The FRG set out to expand on the following key areas: education, employment and training, enterprise and citizens information. This was all about ensuring there was a common ethos among those in the community, and that residents would have somewhere to go in tough times.

The organisation also paid particular attention to the needs of senior citizens, those perhaps most vulnerable in an ever modernising society. The FRG began a system that assisted senior citizens with the handling of their administration etc.

Residents in Dublin 8 now had somewhere to turn to; a sense of home and community that may have been lost for many years due to continuing social problems.

In 2016, it cannot be underestimated how vital the FRG is to the local community in Dublin 8. Not only do they offer employment schemes and an enterprise officer to help entrepreneurs; the group also employs over 40 people working in the community.

Crucially, the citizen’s information office is a gateway for local residents who need help identifying their local public services and entitlements in Ireland.

Not just concerned with the education and employment side of the community; the FRG have also contributed greatly to media, arts and culture in Dublin 8. Amongst other projects, a local newspaper, ‘Dublin 8 Newswire’, was set up to provide relevant community information and news on upcoming events. While it began as a printed medium, the paper is now available digitally online, with writers from all backgrounds submitting stories they are passionate about.

The paper regularly informs readers of local art exhibitions, events etc. creating a sense of community involvement.

There has also been a major development in youth projects and services. Busy Bees Youth Club, Fountain Youth Project, and the Junior Youth Service are just a sample of the ongoing effort to keep Dublin 8 youths involved in safe and prosperous activities.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the work the FRG has done to date.

Their impressive supply of public services even includes a crèche and the ‘Breakfast Club’, which ensures kids have a hot meal each morning before school.

The Fountain Resource Group truly embodies the spirit of community. Having spent some time there, this writer commends the people who volunteer and support the local area every day without praise or commentary.

Whether you live in Dublin 8, or are just passing through on your way home, spare a thought for the FRG; for their efforts, and the continued passion they draw from seeing their community thrive.

Perhaps, like me, you were unaware of just how much groups like FRG do for our local community; and how their efforts can often go unnoticed as we go about our busy lives.

Maybe you could volunteer at your local resource centre over the festive period? There is a strange sense of warmth you feel when getting involved with the betterment of your community – perhaps that is what Father Laverty felt all those years ago.

So 2016 may have been a year to forget for many reasons. As we approach the Christmas season, however, perhaps there’s still time to see the good that’s being done all around us.

I know who I’m looking to.

By Jordan Sweeney

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