SCOTSTOWN GAC have been lauded at The Irish News School, Club and Volunteer awards for their unique “make your ceili” initiative where its members are encouraged to visit a neighbour who may be lonely in a bid to combat rural isolation.
It was no surprise the Monaghan club scooped the ‘Club Community Initiative’ gong at the recent awards day at Belfast’s Wellington Park Hotel for generating a “sense of community” spirit.
Speaking after claiming the club award, member Bernie Sherry said: “Our initiative is called “make your ceili”. We are really encouraging people to go and visit someone. We can all name four or five people off the top of our heads that we should have gone to visit, be it grandparents, neighbours, friends, somebody that is sick.
“So we do it when the clocks change, thinking of the winter months and the long lonely nights. We also did it through three primary schools, so the idea was for them to encourage their parents to go and make their céilí and go and visit someone. “
Scotstown have worked hard to make this a reality and to raise awareness of it in the area. Bernie said: “We also have a céilí committee within the club, so the whole club community, the members and players, they all got involved.
Bernie says the scheme offers so much for the people involved.
“It’s a very simple idea, and I would love if other GAA clubs and communities ran with it. Just put it through your club notes to encourage people to remember people who are living on their own, or perhaps somebody who has just got a new baby. We in the club are very passionate about it.”
Elderly people are particularly prone to loneliness, and Bernie says that they have really enjoyed it. But she stresses that everyone who partakes in it gets so much out of it.
“The funny thing is, the person who made the céilí, who went on the visit, they got as much out of it. They really felt good.
“Definitely, the stories and the stuff that they heard that they had forgotten about and they reminisced, it worked both ways. It was good for the well-being of the person receiving it, and the person going.”
At a time when technology and social media is all-consuming, Bernie says that the perfect remedy is the céilí.
“Because we are sitting on phones so much, it’s hard to beat giving up five minutes of your time for a cup of tea and a chat. Just a wee bit of your time, that’s all it’ll cost you, and you will really feel good after.”
The judges were were really impressed by this club’s commitment to embracing a sense of community spirit throughout its local area.
The judges said: “It’s a simple idea but visiting a calling in on our neighbours or friends is unfortunately a thing we are doing less and less. In the three rural schools within the club’s catchment area they encouraged all pupils to make their celi over the Halloween holidays and take photos and write a few lines about their experiences.
“They realised that their club is yes, about football but more importantly it’s a community determined to include everyone and trying to combat rural isolation.”