Improving the quality of life for patients with chronic illness, supporting artists in their career development, providing access to finance in developing countries, and reducing social isolation are some of the initiatives that form part of St Anthony’s and Claddagh Credit Union’s new Community Engagement Programme.
Inspired by similar successful credit union projects internationally, SACU’s funding programme supports long-term projects in five key areas, namely arts, education, sport, community development, and international aid. According to CEO Gerry Joyce, the aim is to develop a more strategic approach to funding as the organisation "understands the importance of supporting our community and this has always been demonstrated through our donations to, and sponsorships of, a wide range of groups here in the city over the past 50 years".
A fund of €200,000 was invested in 2015 and the first beneficiaries were the Druid's FUEL artist residency, and the Irish League of Credit Unions Foundation whose projects include providing access to vital financial services for low income families in Sierra Leone following the devastating effects of the Ebola crisis.
This year a further €100,000 is being allocated with two more partners coming on board, Galway Simon Community and Cúram Centre for Research in Medical Devices based in NUI Galway. When explaining the benefits of the SACU funding Professor Abhay Pandit, scientific director of Cúram, said the aim of the organisation is to radically improve quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes. He added that with the support of St Anthony’s and Claddagh Credit Union: "Our public engagement programme will forge collaborations between our scientists and the wider community, building awareness of the groundbreaking research happening here in Ireland and inspiring the next generation of Irish scientists and engineers."
Roisin Stack, Druid’s communications and development associate, said artists in the west Ireland had fewer resources than in larger cities. "We trade on a cultural reputation here in Galway and we have earned that," she said. "It’s fantastic to have the audiences and the support that we do, but many artists still struggle to get work off the ground, to make ends meet, to have their work acknowledged and supported. Through FUEL, we at Druid can address that need. We can share our experience, our theatre, our offices, and our resources with west of Ireland artists, and St Anthony’s and Claddagh Credit Union is a fundamental part of that."
In a time of increasing concern about homelessness in Ireland, the collaborative support is also acknowledged by Bill Griffin, CEO of Galway Simon Community, who says SACU funding will enable them to complete the implementation of their client involvement strategy that will reduce the social isolation of individuals experiencing homelessness and broaden educational and employment opportunities for the people they support.
Louise Shields, risk and compliance manager at SACU, said by providing funding to various organisations over five years, it allowedits partners to engage in long-term planning and seek matching funding for specific projects, something they often found difficult in this current economic climate," she explained. The programme was launched this week by Senator Alice Mary Higgins at the Mick Lally Theatre, Druid Lane, Galway.