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Newsletter November 2012

Ward with ROI President Higgens  

Grate full for what is now… Praise for abase and abound

The last newsletter ended with a promise to talk about our new sponsor and the Skainos project.  We are very proud to be associated with East Belfast Mission (EBM) and hope to learn from, contribute to, and multiple their ways.  EBM is a Methodist organization on the Newtownards Road in loyalist East Belfast just across the river from where we are in North Belfast.  This is the area of the former dock and shipyard workers.  The shipyard faltered and nationalized in 1977, and went from a high of 35,000 to now 500 employees.  The Troubles ensued for 30 years.  EBM provides social services such as a recycle shop, a homeless shelter, advice and job assist, and childcare facilities.  A small church was part of the EBM.  For the past ten years they have been working on a "purpose built" facility.

When we were introduced to the Director Mark Houston, in May, they were operating out of a standard storefront and they were building a complex across the street, the highlight of which was the first vertical garden in Europe, enameled art panels, and a central plaza.  The Skainos Building is now open.  Urban

redevelopment on a brownfield and an old cemetery site.  On our tour of the building Mark noted that the business plan targeted for 2015 has been met, a testimony to good management, AND good design! 
The elements are condo apartments for sale, a café bistro, Restore a recycle shop, six classrooms for Belfast Metropolitan College, a 26 person homeless shelter, Tearfund and AgeConcernNI offices, two large multi-purpose rooms, one a gymnasium with showers, and the other for a church, private counseling and art/dance/yoga/judo studios.  We are excited because there are not many projects like this and we hope to see and encourage more.
At the opening event we attended Caroline the HR Director told us she had just hired 30 people to deal with the facilities and was soon taking a trip to Australia.  We contacted her on her last day in the office until the new year.  She said "no problem" in mid April she can renew our Certificate of Sponsorship "in 10 minutes".  When I asked her about bringing in another volunteer worker she said sure and Marda can have a visa too if she wants one.  We are truly grateful to find EBM. 

Stronger Together is the project of 174 Trust bringing together four neighborhoods, two nationalist and two unionist in North Belfast on our side of the river.  A clergy group already meet monthly for breakfast, with ministers and priests and Maximos from the Orthodox church which is neither Catholic nor Protestant.  You who don’t attend church are probably saying why is this a big deal!  Belfast is known the world over as the place where Catholics and Protestants killed and maimed each other for 30-40 years.  Over 3700 people died in this small country, randomly, that's terrorism.  Northern Ireland doesn't have a racism problem they have a sectarian problem.  We try to help people deal with spiritual reconciliation and healing sectarian wounds. 

The final briefing on the study of 28 churches determined that a symposium is next.  Purpose: to include government and NGO organizations to look at the social and conflict needs and develop actions.  The biggest community problems identified are unemployment, low educational attainment, addictions, and paramilitaries. 
Last month we noted that Helen Sanlon was taking up residency in a storefront on the Shankill Road with her art making.  She is the one we went to the art therapists' meeting to hear that artists have a part to play in peace making and envisioning the future because we think differently.  Today we saw that the storefront has a big sign over it that says Artist in Residence. 

Ward and I took a drawing class and a printmaking class.  Great stuff. 

We met Helen at the Faith and Arts group show.  Our Faith and Arts group has been asked to bring a series of "In Conversation" for Contemporary Christianity Ireland evening discussions in the Spring. 

Amazing at how things are coming together.  Praise God!

Email: wardstothers@cten.org
Phone: (028) 90 291986  From U.S. 01144.2890.291986

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