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Big Community Clean Up

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Women around the world are increasingly becoming recognised as agents of change in supporting climate action and environmental work. Over the years, we have met many inspiring women in Donegal leading the charge in supporting environmental issues. In our latest ‘women’s lives, women’s voices’ feature, Donegal Town local Geraldine McBrearty shares with us her journey to setting up the “Big Community Clean Up” group in Donegal and talks about why it’s so important to keep trying to make an environmental difference.


 

Hi Everyone, thank you for taking the time to read this article.  In 2016, I founded a small Facebook group called “Big Community Clean Up“.  Its aim was to rally my friends and neighbours to get out for a few hours for the summer months and clean up our beautiful area as much as we could.

 

What inspired me to do this? Well it was a combination of the older generation and also my children who both always inspire me in all aspects of my life. During one of my walks to my local beach at Drumbeg, I noticed two wonderful ladies in their 60’s walking towards me. I had the pleasure of knowing these ladies many years previously whilst working in Magee of Donegal and I loved meeting them out and about.


 

To my shock, they were laden down with plastic bottles, old rope, part of an old mud flap and a discarded bicycle rim to name but a few.  They were halfway across the beach and literally could not carry another item.  They stopped to chat with me and I offered to carry what I could for them.  They informed me that they regularly picked up rubbish on the beach. What legends!!

 

I was gutted that these two amazing ladies had to go to such lengths to clean up our area. Equally worrying was the danger posed to my children from discarded rubbish and broken bottles. They would often ask “Mum, why is it so dirty here”.  It broke my heart.  I decided to organise a few close friends and neighbours to help me out on regular clean-ups.


 

It was hard work especially as high tides and storms would wash in huge amounts of rubbish onto the shore.  One such beach we cleaned, Matthews Strand, had to be tackled in an almost military manner.  We all had to line up and inch slowly along the beach picking up the endless waste that lay there.  By the end of the few hours cleaning we had made a noticeable difference, everyone was so proud of themselves. The amount of rubbish lifted was so vast that we had to call in the help of the local fishing company MOWI to help us take the rubbish to a designated lifting area for the council to remove.  Just imagine that!

I try to make outings fun, especially for the little children, so I organised on a couple of occasions for an ice cream van to pull up after the clean-up and gave an ice cream to everyone.  It was the least that they all deserved. This was very kindly paid for by the generosity of MOWI and also local councillor Noel Jordan who are always on hand to lend support to the group.


 

During the Covid-19 pandemic our main supporters, Clean Coasts, have been unable to organise clean-ups around the country due to travel and group restrictions.  However, I decided a few weeks ago to approach my group members to see if we could at least get out with our family members within the 2km area and clean as much as we could.  It worked out fantastically and a lot of rubbish along the roadside and in the ditches, was cleared up before it was covered by the growing grass of Spring.

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A socially distanced clean up

Our next mission is to get onto the beaches for a much needed clean up and to implement social distancing and some safety measures.  It’s so important to keep trying to make a difference.  The council and local litter warden are so helpful and I appreciate their regular support.  I believe that any effort at all is so worth it and will make a difference if we can all get out and make it a part of our daily lives to pick up the rubbish.


 

Our future

Maria Murphy and her grandkids out and about cleaning up the area around their home on our recent clean up.

The effort we put in today will benefit our children and relatives in the future. What really stands out for me is that there are so many people like my older friends who are out selflessly lifting other people’s rubbish.  We can join them and it makes the burden they are under a little lighter.  That is why I try and get out when I can to lift rubbish.  Thanks so much to everyone in the community who helps out.  It is very much appreciated and every little helps.  Thank you.

 

To date the group has been a great way to rally people together and to showcase the difference a clean-up makes. People can ask to join the bigcommunitycleanup group or contact their local council who will supply pickers and bags for their own clean ups. Moving forward I’d love to get the beaches cleaned up for the summer but we will have to navigate the social distancing restrictions. Even if each family clean up their own areas and beaches it would make a massive difference.

 


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Compassionate Women Group Course

Network Compassionate Women

“Women, tend to spend a lot of time caring for others and often forget to extend that same care and love to themselves. Self-compassion is giving ourselves the same kindness, care, and understanding that we offer to others. Developing self-compassion can give us an emotional resilience that leaves us better able to deal with life’s challenges.”

Sara Anderson


NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network are pleased to be taking bookings for the New Compassionate Women course by Life Coach Sara Anderson. This is a FREE 4-week online group course which is being offered on a voluntary basic by Sara and will start on Wednesday 3rd June 11am-12.30pm. The aim of this course is to support women in their health and wellness, promoting personal development, well-being and positive mental health. Over the four weeks’ participants will be introduced to and learn about self-compassion, its importance for wellness and how you can develop it.

 

Through guided practice participants will learn mindfulness, empathy, and gratitude techniques allowing you to develop the tools and methods that will leave you feeling better about yourself and the world around you.

 

Venue: Online via Zoom

Dates: Wednesday 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th June

Time: 11.00am-12.30pm

 

If you are interested in participating in this programme please fill in our online form here and someone will be in contact with you. For further information please contact NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network by email on donegalwomensnetwork@gmail.com. Booking is essential, book early to avoid disappointment.


 

The Compassionate Women group course is designed and facilitated by Sara Anderson, who has a working history and experience of working with groups and vast training experience in life coaching, drama therapy, mediation, mindfulness and many other modalities. She can be found on facebook @saratappingcoach or by mobile on 087 7189 620

The Ripple Effect: Making Change in a Changing World

In this ‘Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Gortahork local Joanne Butler shares her journey of becoming an environment educator and setting up the social enterprise OURganic Gardens an outdoor green space focused on food, sustainability, and horticulture. While also reflecting on her learning experience and the importance of embracing sustainable living and making small changes to support the environment.

 


16 Years ago I moved to Donegal, coming for the big smoke of Derry to a relatively rural area and never having grown a vegetable in my life. The following year in 2004 having tasted my first cabbage straight from the field, I asked my landlord at the time for a drill and bought my first seeds. In 2008 my husband and I bought an old cottage with a wonderful view in Gort a’ Choirce. We carefully restored the house for myself, my husband and my (then only) daughter to live in.

Three years later now with 3 children we started to slowly work on our 4 acre garden at this stage I was already growing some of our own food  for a number years but,  I still  was not really aware of where our food comes, thinking back on it now, I was living in a bubble, a nice cosy ‘good life’ bubble as we had observed the land for a number of years (being a bit busy with the kids) we now felt confident to start working on the plans we made.

 


First things first we wanted to clear the land as much as possible and as natural as possible, so we enlisted the help of a few friends, we enlisted the help of some pigs and they got straight to work clearing the ground for us. In 2013 my local community group Pobail Le Chéile asked me to run a Community Garden, it pushed my boundaries and enabled me to work with people in my local community, we shared tips, stories and food.

 

Coming initially from a background always doing some sort of community work I wanted to put together a programme of events that reconnected the links between the food we grow, the food we eat and the people we feed.  We ended the year with a harvest festival, inviting people from all over the area to come together to celebrate food and enjoy the experience of coming together in a social setting. This sparked the flame and OURganic Gardens was born.

 

That winter I attended many courses and events around the country connected with community gardening, I joined the community garden network and completed my FETAC level 6 train the trainer. I put together a community garden course working with local people growing, cooking and connecting with each other.

 


I then started to look beyond just the gardening aspect of it , outside the ‘bubble’, I wanted to bring more than just healthy eating into the classes, I wanted  to show people the impacts of what we do here now, locally and how it will affect other people in the future and Globally.

In February 2014, I began a FETAC level 4 in Global Development with Donegal ChangeMakers, this opened doors I didn’t even know existed. It took me on a journey of learning that not only burst that bubble but entered me into a whole new world of conscious thinking. Hearing the shocking, hard hitting facts I learnt left me feeling overwhelmed to say the least. We looked at the developing countries and how our lives here, affect their lives there. And then more than ever this word CHANGE started to resonate deep within.


 

I went on to complete a tutor facilitator course and I remember hearing  more and more disturbing  insights into the global state of play, where we were at with our natural environment. I had heard enough, I left the course early on the last day barely unable to breath …. I had heard a lot …. I thought to myself … What could I possibly do in any way that could make one ounce of impact in the world today. In tears I wept, for the peoples who’s lives that our choices are destroying, the unfair food trades that are dealt. For the lack of control that we have over large companies that wreak havoc on our food and the environment.

 

But it was then that for me the defining moment came. And it was around that time that the ripple effect, for me came into play. I realised that what we do here, now and the choices we make, while at the time may feel like it’s only a tiny drop in a puddle. But if we allow this drop to affect everything it meets, then in turn this drop creates the possibility to reach all of the ocean. Even the smallest changes we make can affect the people around us.


“For me community gardening and teaching about growing local food became my drop”

 

Since then I have worked with lots of different groups in community gardens and Community Gardens Ireland. Fast Forward four years and the more that I left home to work with people about sustainable living, I realised that I was not being sustainable myself, I was driving all over the county and beyond and not taking time out for me, my family and my garden. So since the beginning of 2018 I took the decision to start to work from my home garden in Gortahork. To start a social enterprise that will show people how and why I do it.

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I have since discovered permaculture which is set of ethics and principles that help me understand nature and work with it rather than against it.

 

EARTH CARE – PEOPLE CARE – AND FAIR SHARE

permaculture

 


 

When I work with groups now we talk about the nature of our global food system. A system where the fruit, vegetables, and herbs found in grocery stores have often been grown hundreds of miles from our kitchens and packed, shipped, distributed, and displayed, all while being refrigerated, this is a process that can wreak havoc not only on the environment but on the flavour and nutrients.

To talk about how growing a simple bag of salad naturally at home can not only cut down on your chemical intake, but in terms of the water it takes to grow the vegetable from seed to bag. In a country like Kenya where water charges are literally costing the earth. As most companies’ triple wash their salads at packaging point, we are literally running the well dry and that doesn’t even take in the transport.

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To learn about how only a few generations ago, most of the food on the dinner table had been growing in gardens only hours before it was served. While it would be a full-time job these days to feed your family this way, it’s surprisingly easy and fun to grow some of the staples on your grocery list and it saves a whole lot of air miles in between.


 

 

We follow the principles as best we can. We observe nature, use and value diversity, produce no waste and use small and slow solutions. Now me and my family have taken it one step further and have looked at these permaculture principles in all our aspects of life at home. From saving our rainwater, building with natural materials, managing our waste materials and using renewable resources we are hoping to show people how they can live more sustainable lives on a home scale basis.

69911756_2406689436035154_6369487674503331840_oI now work with a fantastic team at OURganic Gardens and during 2019 we ran successful  courses in Permaculture, Horticulture and social and therapeutic gardening. We have set up volunteer days and community garden co-operative sessions. We have done numerous walks and talks around the land and we have even set up a small stall at the house providing surplus vegetables to the community with an honesty box to help keep the garden going.

This year we plan to do more of the same with some extra workshops and further development on the land. Who knows what route our learning together will take at OURganic Gardens, but one thing I do know and  that’s the more and more people we can get involved in our garden project then the more and more people that we can get thinking about their own ripple effects and in the near future we look forward to a tidal wave of hope from all of the ocean!

Go Raibh Maith Agat

 


Adapting to Change

Joanne is currently doing a series of online live facebook videos on Sundays under the title #GrowTogetherDonegal check it out here 

 

 


NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Mighty Women

Mighty Women

 

“The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are” Maya Angelou

 

On 1st February NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network held the county’s  first Herstory event in support of a  national women’s storytelling movement to tell the stories of women past and present. The event  brought women together to share stories through a creative process and created a space to reflect on the importance of ensuring women’s everyday lives, contributions and stories are both told and included in our history.

 

As part of this day Julie Griffiths an Artist and facilitator from Donegal Changemakers a development education project lead a unique workshop entitled ‘Mighty Women’ commemorative plates a creative way of talking about and celebrating the women who have influenced and enrich our everyday lives.

 

We are delighted the Commemorative Plates created by the woman on the day will now been on display in Donegal Town, giving others the opportunity to see these unique piece and read about the women who influenced their creation. These unique plates will be on display in Simple Simon, Donegal Town from Thursday 5th March in celebration of International Women’s Day.

 

We would like take this opportunity to thank all the woman who participated in this event, the  stories their shared are inspiring and highlight why it’s so important women’s lives and voices are both valued and heard. And to Julie Griffiths and Simple Simon for organising and facilitating the display of these unique plates. We invite the community to stop by and see them 🙂