Flying the flag

Belfast Lough Sailability flew the flag at the UK Community Foundations Conference in Belfast, hosted by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland on Friday 25 September. Our group brought along one of our Hansa 303s, ‘SUNNY’ – on stage for the occasion – to allow the 320 delegates from NI, the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA to visualise our work.

Back – Bob and Christine Harper, founders, Belfast Lough Sailability. Front (left to right) – Kerry Mussen, service user and Andrew McCracken, Chief Executive, Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.

The Conference gave BLS the opportunity to bring a new dimension to the theme of the event, Transforming Vision into Reality, by showing the life-changing potential of effective funding. BLS Volunteers Bob & Christine Harper and Kerry Mussen energised the audience with the stories they have experienced of hope, achievement and empowerment through learning to sail and other associated water based activities.

Bob Harper said:

“We are delighted to have been chosen to showcase the amazing work Belfast Lough Sailability has been doing for the last 14 years, helping people with a disability to ‘get afloat’ working alongside the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland who have helped us turn the vision into reality’.

Kerry Mussen, BLS Volunteer Coordinator, keelboat helm and wheelchair user said:

‘My greatest pleasure is to take someone out for a sail. This is all due to the training I have received and the confidence BLS has given me to become an active member of the sailing community. I am among friends – we are one big family.’

Christine Harper said:

“Without funding from organisations like the Community Foundation, we cannot move forward. We want to thank them for their support over the years. The grants we have received have been essential in allowing us to remain sustainable as well as develop new projects.”

Andrew McCracken, Chief Executive of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, said:

“We are delighted host the UK Community Foundations’ prestigious biennial conference, which has allowed us to showcase the great things local people have achieved with some support from us.

“Belfast Lough Sailability is a great example of what we believe – that the community in Northern Ireland can work together to create the kind of society we want, and that the Community Foundation – a space that enables local people to invest their money in local communities in the most effective way – is a vital part of us creating that future.”