From a sensory garden for autism-focused youth clubs, to community integration projects for migrants, the AWS InCommunities Fund will help launch or expand 38 local projects in Drogheda, Ireland.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched the AWS InCommunities Fund to help local groups, schools, and organizations in Drogheda, Ireland, to launch new projects or expand existing ones that will benefit their local community. Applicants bid for funding for projects that support an area of science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM), sustainability, or health and wellbeing. So far over 3,500 people have benefited in some way from the 38 local projects that received funding.
The AWS InCommunities Fund is managed and administered by ChangeX, a non-profit organization headquartered in Dublin with a community engagement platform designed to get funding and resources directly into citizens’ hands so they can lead impactful projects in their neighborhoods.
When launched, the AWS InCommunities Fund received so much interest that AWS increased the funding amount to support over 50% more projects than initially planned. To date, AWS has awarded funding to 38 projects in Drogheda and the surrounding areas to help make a lasting and positive impact in the community. Here are a few of the projects that AWS has supported so far:
The Red Door Project
The Red Door Project is an addiction support service in Drogheda that received funding for refurbishments and upgrades to its facilities.
“The project is a rehabilitation day program that will support 21 people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction,” said Joanne O’Dwyer, Community Employment Supervisor at The Red Door Project. “These individuals will have somewhere to come daily to address issues of homelessness, domestic violence, trauma and addiction.”
Currently, the service is run from a school with dated facilities. The AWS InCommunities Fund has helped put plans in motion to transform a disused woodwork room into a space for music, drama, training, upskilling and recreation. The space will also be used for group therapy to allow The Red Door Project to cater for a growing demand for its services.
With the funding, Joanne and her team will be able to furnish the new space and even upgrade their canteen at The Red Door Project, which was previously a donated kitchen.
“The funding is going to help us enhance the recovery experience of those who use our service by providing appropriate, expanded spaces and services to cater for their needs. Importantly, it will also allow us to increase the number of individuals we work with.”
St Oliver’s Community College ‘Grow at School’ project
St Oliver’s Community College is a multi-denominational school in Drogheda with over 1,400 students. Following successful applications from a group of teachers, the school has been awarded funding for three sustainability projects.
One of the projects the school received funding for was a Grow at School project, which builds on the school’s existing horticultural program. The school had a small vegetable patch with a few raised beds in it as part of its existing garden club. The funding has allowed them to expand the garden, install more raised beds and plant more food that students and staff can grow, care for and harvest in an environmentally friendly way.
“Our students have been out constructing and weeding, getting the beds ready for sowing!” said Amanda Duggan, one of the teachers involved in the project.
“We have sown broccoli, cauliflower and garlic so far with seeds sown in our handy little propagator. Next up will be cabbage, lettuce, beetroot, rhubarb, onions and carrots. For the students, to be able to physically produce something as a result of hard work gives them a real sense of achievement.”
With support from the AWS InCommunities Fund, the school has also started work on a pollinator garden and a tree-planting project.
Basement Sounds at Boomerang Youth Café
The Basement Sounds music and arts initiative at the Boomerang Youth Café was first established in 2021 to offer local young people aged 12 to 18 a range of music workshops and rehearsal space. The team has always wanted to install an additional soundproofed recording booth, but they weren’t sure if this would be financially possible.
“We didn’t think we’d be able to do it, but with the funding from the AWS InCommunities Fund, it has become a reality,” said Seán McCluskey, lead youth worker for Basement Sounds.
With the funding, Seán and his team were able to purchase more music equipment, software and materials for the soundproofed booth. They also plan to use some of the money for field trips, including a trip to the National Concert Hall.
“It’s a dream project and we’re so grateful to have had the opportunity to do it. It has transformed our program and allowed us to reach more people.”
Since the facility opened, 150 local young people have used it from a range of school groups, local bands and members of the Boomerang Café youth club.
“This project has already had an immense impact on our young people at Boomerang Café. It will have a hugely beneficial effect on the mental health of our members, giving them a creative outlet to process the last two years of the pandemic and the anxieties that came with it.”
The recording booth is hopefully just the beginning of Basement Sounds’ expansion, with the initiative securing additional funding from other sources since growing with the AWS InCommunities Fund.
Hands 4 Unity
Since it was set up in 2019, Hands 4 Unity has been working with Drogheda-based women from diverse backgrounds to improve their community experience and facilitate better community integration. The charity’s mission is to make it easier for people who arrive in Drogheda from other countries to feel at home and feel equipped to deal with the various challenges they might face, such as language barriers and culture.
This year, the charity was awarded funding to expand and develop their critical upskilling and community networking services.
With this extra resource, Hands 4 Unity plans to create a multi-use space that will serve as an outreach center to provide a physical space that encourages community inclusion and real integration among different community groups.
The funding will also support a series of community events and workshops, allowing Hands 4 Unity to rent a venue and engage artists from different backgrounds to share their music, dance and culture with the wider community. It will also cover training materials, snacks for participants and safety essentials such as hand sanitizer.
“Having a space where these women and their children can participate and share in each other’s cultures is the first step along the way to breaking down barriers and opening them up to sharing in the Irish culture,” said Ejiro O Stratton, founder, Hands4Unity.
“With the help of the AWS InCommunities Fund, this can be achieved through music, dance, art and craft workshops, cooking workshops, job search workshops and so on.”
The Junk Percussion Sensory Garden Orchestra
The Junk Percussion Sensory Garden Orchestra is a joint project between Autism Support Louth&Meath youth clubs and Drogheda ABACAS Special School for Children with Autism.
The project received funding to develop a sensory garden to host music-based workshops for autistic children, teenagers and adults in the area. Once launched, the workshops will combine music, storytelling and play, as well as featuring a combination of percussion and samba drumming.
Work on the project began this year and project lead, Jacinta Walsh, says they aim to help local young people explore their individuality through musical expression, creating their own ensemble music and experience elements of performance.
“We aim to create an environment where young people with autism and intellectual disability can engage in a creative process to the greatest extent of their ability. Participants will listen, learn and make their own decisions on what sound effect or rhythmical pattern to use in their own sensory story.
“The pandemic has had an impact on many autistic people and their mental wellbeing, causing increased levels of anxiety and stress. This project will provide an outlet, not only to build and express creativity but also to release tension, engage in a group and participate in a fun and interactive activity.”
Boyne Netball Club
Funding will help newly established Boyne Netball Club, to buy team kits, equipment and cover match costs.
The club was set up in 2021, and club representative Lynsey Ryder says it’s been transformative for the local women who have joined so far.
“The awareness and promotion of women’s sport in Ireland is growing and this is a fantastic opportunity to join that momentum, empowering girls and women in the local area through sport,” says Lynsey.
“We are a fun, friendly club that caters for all ages and abilities, from social and fitness to competitive levels!”
Funding will support the club’s development, allowing it to keep growing.Since its first session in September 2021, the club trains every Monday night at Drogheda Grammar School. Already 50 players strong, the club has two teams (an under 18s squad and a senior squad) that were competing in Netball Ireland’s Winter league.
Culture Connect is a non-profit Social Enterprise; made up of a network of professionals, volunteers, and groups across the Northeast of Ireland; who promote the integration of people from different countries living locally. It aims to empower ethnic groups and communities by offering information and support on housing, social welfare entitlement, immigration and legal services, and also provides a range of training such as conversational English classes, intercultural Mediation and Cultural Awareness.
Culture Connect plans to use funding to provide mentoring for recently trained Cultural Ambassadors who will be facilitating communication and engagement between people from minority ethnic, refugee and migrant backgrounds and service providers. The program was launched in February 2022 with ambassadors from 15 different countries including Romania, Pakistan, Kenya, Albania, and Syria.
“The project will consolidate the skills and knowledge that the ambassadors learned on their initial training program and will also provide professional mentoring support as they embark on their work as cultural barrier breakers within their respective communities,” said Flora Okobi, Culture Connect’s founder.
Following the program, the Cultural Ambassadors will support their communities by engaging with the organizations who provide housing, social welfare entitlement, immigration and legal services, and simplify and translate essential information, helping to bring down communication barriers some minority ethnic people face.
Culture Connect estimates that each Ambassador will support at least four families with cases in the first year of the project, meaning the program will support a minimum of 60 local people.
“The project aims to promote equality by making access to important information easier. This can be achieved through working collaboratively with a range of voluntary, community and public services to address the cultural barriers people arriving from other countries face when trying to integrate into our local communities.”
Empowering local organizations to have a lasting impact
AWS InCommunities was established to create and deliver long-term, innovative support that will have a lasting impact in communities where AWS builds and operates global infrastructure.
AWS InCommunities also supports local communities through its work with local charities and employee volunteering. One example is Thomas Carroll, the AWS InCommunities volunteer on a mission to support Dublin’s classrooms, hospitals and homeless shelters. Other AWS programs offered in local communities include AWS Tech Week, Girls’ Tech Days, the AWS Family Tech Series and AWS Think Big Spaces.