By Carolyn Agnew
I joined Supporting Communities when it was NITAP on 2nd October 1995 and covered the Armagh, Dungannon and Newry areas until November 2001.
My first base was in a community house in Westacres, Craigavon where Sheenagh McNally also had an office. We hit it off straight away and have been firm friends ever since. I will always be grateful to Sheenagh for showing me the ropes, helping me settle in, her support throughout my time in NITAP, and for her craic and wise counsel.
The monthly team meetings provided an opportunity to catch up with colleagues working in other areas. Apart from the work I remember having great craic with Colm McDaid, Murray Watt, Pamela Mullan and Pat Bowen (RIP) among others.
In those days, information technology was just beginning to become part of the office environment and all the Liaison Officers were provided with a second hand computer - no printer and very limited network links. However, it did look good on the desk!
Administrative support was provided centrally from Ballymena and each week the Liaison Officers would post their hand written notes to Theresa and Karen for typing. Training was all acetates and overhead projectors.
I have some very fond memories of my time at NITAP. I had the pleasure and privilege to meet and work with some wonderful and talented people within the organisation and in our partners from the statutory and voluntary sector, and the local community.
I worked with some brilliant community associations such as Carnaget, Innishmore, Mullacreevie, Taghnevan, Burnside and the Armagh NIHE Consumer Panel, as it was then, but if I had to pick, the memory that stands out would be the official opening of the O’Fiaich Community Centre in Callanbridge Park, Armagh in 1995. I had the pleasure of accompanying members of the Callanbridge Residents Association and Mrs. Joyce Dobbin, Manager, Armagh NIHE District Office to the House of Commons in London to receive a BURA (British Urban Regeneration Award) for the development of the centre. This trip was the culmination of many years hard work by the local community in terms of fundraising, relationship building, planning, development and management of a centre that is still used by the community in Callanbridge to this day.
During my time in NITAP I received an excellent grounding in the nuts and bolts of community development practice and this together with the vast range of experience I gained assisted me in further developing my career. I left NITAP in 2001 to take up the post of Community Development Officer with Armagh and Dungannon Health and Social Services Trust; in 2004 I was appointed as Community Development Manager and in 2009 after the Southern Health and Social Care Trust was established under the review of public administration, I was appointed to the post I currently hold today, Head of User Involvement and Professional Lead for Community Development.
So thank you, Supporting Communities, for asking me to reflect back on those happy times and thank you to NITAP for the opportunity to gain such a terrific variety of skills and experience and to meet and work with such a superb range of people.
Congratulations on your 40th anniversary - enjoy your celebrations and keep doing what you do so well!
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