The Waterways Community (TWC) is an innovative charity and that utilises waterways to create opportunities for people to learn, to be active and culturally creative and to improve their physical and mental health wellbeing. It was born from an understanding of the immense potential of our waterways to impact on community social impact and diversify.
Our extensive research has through a two year pilot focused on engaging 1,500 people of all ages and abilities in activity, learning and wellbeing activities. The outcomes of the research resulted in TWCs business drivers;
Waterways Learning – The Waterways College
Providing a range of volunteering opportunities right across our service areas. Developing traditional and new accredited heritage skills and personal development courses aimed at all ages and from a range of abilities and backgrounds. Delivered in waterways environments our activities are project based. Our summer and other seasonal schools are held at Navigation House in Lisburn.
Physical activity – NI Blueways projects
TWC develops new and exciting collaborations to provide and promotes physical activity on waterways. A Stage 1 application to Blueways Ireland – www.bluewaysireland.com for accreditation of the waterways in the Lagan Valley has been successful 17th May 2021. The first in Northern Ireland we are now establishing a Development Group form the 200+ groups who were part of our extensive consultation process including statutory agencies, user groups and service providers. Stage 2 will see the co-design of a development plan and investment planning.
Waterways As A Tourism Destination
In developing the potential of waterways – lough, lakes, seashores, canals, maritime environments to provide a more diverse tourism destination in Northern Ireland TWC strives to be a catalyst for improved social impact, economic diversity and a sustainable future for waterways.
Cultural Heritage Activity
TWCs two annual Festivals – the Waterways Storymaking Festival and the Purple Turnip Family Festival which celebrate the cultural heritage of waterways. Taking artist led workshops into communities to engage all ages and abilities in creative expression and providing family activity days adjacent to and on waterways at our free events.
Mental health and wellbeing
In a ‘Review of Mental Health Policies in Northern Ireland: Making Parity a Reality’ June 2019 by Professor Siobhan O’Neill, Professor Deirdre Heenan and Dr. Jennifer Betts (accessed October 2020) the authors note that ‘“Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability (NI): A Strategic Framework for Adult Mental Health Services” (June 2005), set out a vision for adult mental health services for the next 15-20
years. Key recommendations called amongst others were:
• A continued emphasis on promoting positive mental health;
• A continued shift from hospital to community-based services;
• Development of specialist services for children and young people, older people, those with addiction problems, and those in the criminal justice system.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines good mental health as: A state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
TWC seeks to addresses the determinates of mental health inequalities in developing its wellbeing programmes. There is increasing evidence of the benefits of nature for mental health and wellbeing. A recent pilot wetlands project in the London Wetland Centre, reported in The Guardian newspaper 13.05,2021, showed that people diagnosed with anxiety or depression moved up a clinical mental health grade, from below average to average. “The benefits for our mental wellbeing, of getting out in nature, has become well known during the pandemic, but those experiencing mental health problems and those most at risk still face greater barriers to accessing nature – they are more likely to live in urban areas with fewer natural spaces and less likely to have the means to travel to those spaces,” Jonathan Reeves London Wetland Centre,