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Vol 9 • Issue 1 • Spring 2010

Le Chéile

PAGE 9

NEWS DIGEST

“The phrase ‘Cead Mile Failte’ (a hundred thousand welcomes), is synonymous with Ireland, but can we honestly say this motto best describes us?” asks Michael Gowing, Macra na Feirme’s National President.

JUST HOW WELCOMING IS “IRELAND OF THE WELCOMES”?

Have you been too busy to welcome new people to your neighbourhood and community? Do you leave it to someone else to coach the local sports teams, to join the Parents Council or to take part in the local Meals on Wheels service? Do you know the people in your community, the families of your children’s friends and your local shopkeepers?

While we have all benefited from the economic progress of the past decades, the

consequences of unbridled consumerism and individualism has pulled apart the glue that cohere communities together. During the boom times things such as relocation, commuter belts and

migration meant new people moved in to neighbourhoods. Did we notice the changes in our communities? Can we do more to include new people in our communities and to foster a sense of community sprit among all the inhabits of an area?

We all looked in horror at our TV screens as family homes, farms and businesses were ruined by floods in 2009; think for a moment if this happened to you. Who would help? Would your community pull together? Would you

yourself offer a hand?

“Knowing those in your community fosters a sense of belonging and a feeling of community.”

Our leaders in Europe believe we need to foster a sense of “neighbourliness” and have begun an initiative called European Neighbours’ Day, which will take place on Friday, 28 May 2010.

What is stopping you from getting more actively involved in your community? There are numerous ways of doing this, including the Macra na Feirme’s ESB Customer Supply Know Your Neighbour Weekend, which encourages people to host a community event such as a sports day or coffee morning and invite members of your community along. This year the Know Your Neighbour Weekend will take place over the weekend of 17 and 18 July 2010. The initiative has run for the past

four years in neighbourhoods across Ireland, and those who took part in the past have already reaped the benefits.

Knowing the members of your community fosters a sense of belonging and a feeling of unity. Isolation and loneliness not only makes us unhappy, but it is also bad for our health according to research carried out by Professor John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago. He found that a sense of rejection or isolation increases blood pressure, stress levels and general wear and tear on the body, as well as increasing your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. These risks alone should prompt us to become better neighbours!

The Empowerment = Wellbeing report (June 2008), written by Mandeep Hothi, Nicola Bacon, Marcia Brophy and Geoff Mulgan, finds that neighbourhood and community empowerment has three effects which increase well- being: one, it provides greater opportunities for residents to influence decisions affecting their neighbourhoods; two,

it facilitates regular contact between neighbours and three, it helps resident to gain the confidence to exercise control over local circumstances.

Why when there are so many positive points to being involved in your community, or being a good neighbour, would you want to live an isolated life? What does it cost to extend a smile or say hello to your neighbours?

To get involved in your community, stop worrying about what others think and realise we should all welcome new friends and acquaintances. No matter what your interests, there are numerous groups in your community to get involved in. Organisations, such as Macra na Feirme, the GAA and the Irish Country- women’s Association (ICA), Meals on Wheels, SVP, St John Ambulance or other charities can help you to get involved in your community. It is up to you!

For more information on the KnowYour Neighbour campaign visit www.

www.knowyourneighbour.ie

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