Harmony Community Trust
Harmony Community Trust was established by the Rotary Club of Belfast in 1975 in conjunction with the International Volunteer Service. In 1973 at the height of the “Troubles” the Club had initiated the hosting in Britain of 800 children in mixed parties allowing them the opportunity of respite and the experience of mixing together in a neutral environment. However on return it was found that the benefits were short lived, and the Club decided it would be better to have a local facility which would provide the children with the opportunity of meeting again and getting to understand one another in familiar territory.
In 1975 Glebe House, an old Rectory with 16 acres in Kilclief near Strangford was purchased and the organisation established to run 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.
For the last 36 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.
Unfortunately, even with the “Peace Process” in full swing the need for this activity is almost greater than ever in those communities which have not yet seen significant benefits from the normalisation of life in the province.
The Rotary Club of Belfast remains closely involved through continued representation on Harmony’s Committee and currently Gary Bennett and David Boyd are the Club’s representatives.
The facilities now comprise a 40 bed dedicated accommodation block (The Rookery), indoor barn activity area, renovated cottage sleeping 5, and an indoor activity, conference facility and craft room now named the Harry Corscadden Building; together with the sensory garden, 16 acres of farm with donkeys, ponies, pigs, goats, rabbits and poultry and a wildlife area for exploring nature. The fondly called 'Harry Building' was named in honour of the Late Harry Corscadden, Past President, and one of the founders at a special ceremony in May 2009 see here.
|Sensory Garden||The Rookery||Harry Corscadden Building|
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 Department of Education.
Despite recent political developments the need for its services in the community, whilst changing in emphasis, is as necessary as when it was first envisaged by the Belfast Rotarians.
The continuing interest of the Club in the affairs of the charity is much appreciated but over the coming months will be ever more required to meet these challenges.
Further information on Harmony Community Trust/Glebe house can be seen here.