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FUND HELPS SOUTH ARMAGH COMMUNITY ‘BLOSSOM’ - Building Better Futures Supports An Tobar Community Wellness Centre

An innovative social enterprise in Silverbridge, south Armagh, is using horticulture to improve the wellbeing of the local community. Every week up to 400 people, including schoolchildren, adults with learning difficulties and dementia patients, are benefitting from programmes at An Tobar Community Wellness Centre and Social Farm.

Opened just last year, the centre has now received a £30,000 loan from the Building Better Futures Fund to improve access and disabled facilities, expand its services and support the planting of 13,000 trees in a new community woodland.

The £1m Building Better Futures fund was launched in 2017 and is a unique collaboration between Belfast Charitable Society, Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) and Building Change Trust. The fund, which provides support in the way of a loan, is aimed at community-based groups seeking to make a positive difference to society across Northern Ireland.

The founders of An Tobar have been running a garden centre in Silverbridge since the 1980s, but after thirty years in business they realized they could use their horticultural skills to benefit the local community. 

With six full time staff and ten volunteers, An Tobar is now providing educational gardening programmes in 11 local schools, social farming services for Southern Health & Social Care Trust, therapeutic horticulture for elderly people and work placements for adults with learning difficulties.  They also provide a range of nature based programmes for groups including Sure Start South Armagh, Carers Trust, Newry & Mourne Alzheimer’s Society and the WALD Centre, Cullyhanna.

Kathleen Finnegan-Agnew, who founded An Tobar with her sister Margaret, said:

“After several decades of working in a commercial background we reached a stage in our lives where we wanted to do something that would benefit the local community.