Harmony Community Trust
Harmony Community Trust (HCT) owns and runs Glebe House; it was established by The Rotary Club of Belfast in 1975 in conjunction with the International Volunteer Service. Situated 3 miles from Strangford village in Co Down, Glebe House is a unique and special place for people of all ages, from Ireland, north and south, and all over the world.
For the last 39 years Glebe House has been operated as a dedicated cross-community holiday and activity centre, principally for children but also now catering for adults in a variety of programmes bringing participants from different communities together to meet in a place, in contrast to their home environment, where they can play, work, learn, have fun and discover more about themselves and about those they expect to be 'different'. Where they can re-create their own identity and don't need to conform to sectarian or social stereotypes.
At Glebe House people of all ages create and renew friendships and it has proved its value over the years as a shared and safe venue within the community for cross-community activities for all ages.
Despite recent political developments the need for its services in the community, whilst changing in emphasis, is almost greater than ever in those communities which have not yet seen significant benefits from the normalisation of life in the province.
Glebe House have recently concluded a programme through Peace III, particularly aimed at challenging sectarianism and racism by developing cross community linkages across the hidden interfaces in the Down, North Down and Ards council areas - building trust through workshops, study tours and day events, Catholic and Protestant participants got to know and learn from each other. Report can be read here.
The challenge for HCT is to find the funding necessary to sustain and extend this work in the future, thus continuing the ongoing task of overcoming sectarianism, racism and other prejudices, in order to create a shared and inclusive society. The challenges faced grow no less year by year and the Trust is recruiting new Council members, developing new programmes, and seeking new sources of funding to replace the core funding of salaries being withdrawn by the Statutory funders.
The Rotary Club of Belfast remains closely involved through continued representation on Harmony's Committee and PP David Boyd is the Club's representative.
Foundation of Harmony Community Trust
In the early days of the troubles in 1971/72 when following internment there was significant upheaval in Belfast communities; Rotary, along with others, were trying to come up with ways to help the children affected by the troubles. Along with District and RIBI the Club led a project which sent 800 children from mixed communities to England in July and August 1972 allowing them the opportunity of respite and the experience of mixing together in a neutral environment.
These trips appeared to be successful and the English clubs reported they got on well together while away. However on return the benefits were short lived and the Club evaluation concluded that this did not go far enough in bridging the gap between the communities. It was decided it would be better to have a permanent place locally for the children to get together providing an opportunity of their meeting again and getting to understand one another in familiar territory.
The Club got involved with various working parties which included the Community Relations Commission and the Executive formed after the Sunningdale agreement, but all these fell after Direct rule was re-imposed and the Club decided to go it alone raising £10,000 in two years. Then it was found the International Voluntary Service were looking along similar lines and an unlikely alliance was formed to set up what is now HCT.
A 19th century Rectory with 16 acres in Kilclief near Strangford was purchased for a holiday centre where children from both sides of the divided community in Northern Ireland could meet and learn to understand one another in a neutral environment and contribute towards a better and more peaceful future for the Province; the Club provided funds and managerial assistance and the IVS the service aspects of looking after people.
Glebe House opened in July 1975 for the 1st holiday.
An organisation was established and The Rotary Club of Belfast and IVS Steering Committee handed over to Harmony Community Trust.
The facilities have developed over the years and now comprise:
The Rectory - known as the Glebe
|The Rookery was opened in 1995. It has accommodation for up to 40 persons on two floors. The ground floor is fully wheel chair accessible with TV lounge and large activity room. The Rookery lounge has direct access to the fruit garden and fish pond.|
The Orchard - Harry Corscadden Building
|The Stables||Sensory Garden|
|Up to date computer suite||Craft Room|
Further information on Harmony Community Trust/Glebe house can be seen here.