GAA Healthy Clubs success story in Buncrana
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By Cian O'Connell
These are interesting times in Buncrana.
On the field of play Buncrana are busy preparing for an AIB Ulster Club Junior Football Final this weekend against Monaghan outfit Blackhill at Healy Park.
That has injected significant hope and momentum into the community
Aine Daly, Buncrana’s Healthy Club Officer, is encouraged by how those involved in Donegal have contributed to a real success story.
The Healthy Club Project, delivered in partnership with Healthy Ireland and Irish Life, is the GAA’s flagship health and wellbeing initiative. It seeks to transform clubs into hubs for health for their members and communities.
“Initially at the start for us it was about getting involved and into the community at around this time last year,” Daly explains.
“We started off with a big Health and Wellbeing forum in the local hotel. That was just to create awareness around the Healthy Club itself, to bring the GAA out into the community. Anybody that had anything to do with health, wellbeing or fitness within our community, we wrote to them and asked them would they be interested in having a stall at this forum.
“So we had over 50 exhibitors on the day, it was a great success and loads of people in the community came. We had health checks like blood pressure checks and so on.
“Throughout the day we had talks on various things like nutrition, no smoking, and we said we would be able to support people with it. That initially created our awareness in the community. At the start of the year we had a safetalk in the clubhouse which went very well.
“We had 19 delegates mainly coaches and club officers participating in the safetalk. It created an awareness of risks associated with mental health. How to point people in the right direction. One of our partners is the Samaritans and one of our club members has a link to the Samaritans in Donegal.
“So we had numerous talks throughout the year to underage teams and summer camps in relation to mental health."
Buncrana has tried to assist players and members of all ages with the Gaelic For Mothers and Others proving to be a real hit also.
“We started that off in April or May time,” Daly states. “We have a panel of 20, but we usually have between 10 and 16 on a Monday evening.
“The girls just love it and it is mostly mammies of children that are just there training. They think it is a great thing altogether.”
Making these type of small connections is ultimately why Daly is delighted with how people in the locality have responded to the efforts being made by the club. A HB Family Fun Day brought people with no prior GAA involvement into the club with €1,800 raised which was split between Down Syndrome Ireland and Donegal Down Syndrome.
“We have partnered up with different partners in the community,” Daly adds. “We were doing this anyway on a local level, but it is great to get the natural recognition and to also receive an award for it.
“We've partnered with the RNLI, who have come in to give water safety talks during our summer camps. We've also partnered up with the Red Cross within the community.
“The Red Cross has a list of defibrilators within the community, where they are located and contactable phone numbers. We are part of that process. Our next project is to get an outside box for our defibrilator.
“Ours is located in a room which is locked at night so it is not accessible 24-7. So with our grant from the Healthy Club Project, the 500 pounds, that is what we are doing at the minute, we are just investigating which one is the best option for us. So we are going to have a box outside so it is available 24-7 for the community.”
A practical approach is what Daly wanted to adopt in the role so various talks and schemes have been delivered.
“Another thing we did is have 10 or 12 coaches, because they are the ones at ground level, do a concussion awareness session before the start of the year with a company the County Board had brought in to do concussion awareness,” she explains.
“Sometimes it is hard to get people to go, but I'm a nurse myself and I used to work in the surgical word where the head injuries were. I badgered them into going, but they were all glad they went because some of them didn't realise the significance of a mild to moderate head injury. That was very beneficial.”
Ensuring the club is vibrant in several ways is what Daly intends to do. Little things matter from involving elderly people to ensuring youngsters are catered for well also.
“We try to involve everyone, the older people too,” Daly remarks. “We have been on to the committee about it too.
“You have older members that don't drive so when you have matches I always text people to see who can bring the older people to the match to make sure they are still involved. That happens right down to the Under 6s with basic stuff like healthy eating. We were thinking about doing a healthy eating policy, we discussed it with Croke Park, but we thought it might be hard to manage and implement.
“So we are just focused on healthy eating more so this year. In the past it has been highlighted to myself that when you have parties it is always sweets, crisps, and lemonade.
“This year we have asked parents when they are coming to blitzes that they don't just bring sandwiches, biscuits, and bars, that they also bring fruit and healthier options, water, and have the coaches giving out bananas and things like that.
Last week we had a dietician/nutritionist in speaking to the Under 12s and 14s. They wanted some more information on nutrition and diet so we got a local dietician in to speak to them, she is involved in sport herself. They found that very beneficial.”
A digital detox was one of the many schemes carried out in Buncrana and Daly was hugely encouraged by how that fared.
“We piloted it with the Under 12 group, every day of the calendar month for October they were tasked with maybe no Facebook, no phone or no Snapchat or no iPad, but there was also a physical challenge on that day,” Daly states.
“They maybe had to colour a picture, go for a walk, go for a run, go to the beach, go somewhere, bake a cake, read a book.
“There was always a physical challenge as well as withdrawing from some sort of digital imagery. The feedback was that a lot of the 12 year olds didn't have phones so you'd have been better to do it with 14s. That is a thing going forward that we can do.”
An extremely topical issue Daly believes it is something Buncrana will revisit in the near future. “Definitely, one of the local primary schools they have three sixth class teachers, they took a copy of it and they did it with their classes in February,” Daly reveals.
“They adapted it, but because most of them wouldn't have phones they adapted to say Playstation or television, they just changed it accordingly and gave them practical things to do instead - going for a walk, run, do something good for somebody- wash the dishes. Simple things.
“Even from the parents the feedback was positive, they said they were outdoors and involved more with their children going for a walk, baking a cake or even just going to the beach. It is kickstarting them into doing these things too which is a very positive thing.”
Overall the reaction in Buncrana has been overwhelmingly positive and Daly is adamant that focusing on everyday activities is really beneficial.
“You are doing things and you don't even think about them,” Daly says. “So it is nice to think about them and to tick the boxes, documenting exactly what you are doing. Although you are doing the work sometimes it is going unnoticed, you don't even realise yourself how much work you're actually doing.
“So at least now when you document it, you can see how much work you are doing, then you can present it to your committee.”
A supportive executive committee helps the process according to Daly. “My executive committee have been very good,” she replies.
“I always put in a report for the monthly meetings and it is always heard, sometimes I've had to ask to move it up the list because if it is a long agenda it could be coming in at the end, people are ready to go home and they don't want to hear me,” Daly laughs.
“It is never very long, just an update on what is being done. A couple of months ago the executive passed that we become a no smoking club, but I lost my brother, he died at the end of September. So that has been put on hold at the minute, but it is a work in progress.
“It is something we will work on. We have been involved with the HSE, who are willing to help us with that. So that is our next project going forward.”
The good work isn’t stopping on and off the field in Buncrana.
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