Our Downpatrick Charity has a fascinating history.
In 2003 Tools For Solidarity was lucky to get a building in Downpatrick as an additional workshop. However, we had a little problem with it. Before our charity entered the place it was a former school which had not been touched for 15 years. The school itself was quite special because it was a part of a social programme back in the 18th century that provided housing and education to poor people. Thus we were happy to be the next destination for a place with such history.
The official opening of the Downpatrick charity was in January 2004. Even though the workroom was far from a finish the potential was there and everyone could see it!
Right after the opening, the workshop was operating three days a week. After a while, we started receiving a huge demand for volunteering so that we decided to change our schedule to four days a week (Monday to Thursday). Our organisation decided to go flexible, therefore some volunteers work for an hour, some stay for the full day.
One of the core aims of TFS Downpatrick is to provide opportunities and social support to people with different types of disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health problems.
Downpatrick had one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in Northern Ireland and when it closed it became necessary to continue to support these people. There was a great relevance in developing the project in the sense that there are a wide variety of organisations supporting people with mental health problems. That is why the workshop in Downpatrick has established several partnerships with some of these organisations over time:
Work focus in Downpatrick is more related to volunteers’ needs. We give them the opportunity to learn new skills, develop their potential and carry out the same activity every week if that fits them well. Our volunteers can work on such activities as:
- Sanding and varnishing
- Repairing tools, such as drills, chisels, etc.
- Repairing sewing machines
- Refurbishing treadle bases for sewing machines
We also work with a group of students that have behavioural problems from the Ardmore School in Downpatrick. They help us to refurbish tools and treadle tops.
Mentioned above tools and sewing machines were refurbished by supported volunteers and sent to:
- Mwanza Sewing and Training Centre (MSTC) in Tanzania
- Women Rights Initiative (WORI) in Uganda
- BWALO Initiative in Malawi
After a few years of managing both workshops in Belfast and Downpatrick, we came up to the conclusion that we need some help. That’s when one of our core volunteers decided to take a lead and became a manager of the workshop! Chris is managing workshops since 2009 and he is doing an amazing job! The work atmosphere is friendly and the place is spotless, tidy and warm. You have to visit both Belfast and Downpatrick to appreciate just how tidy the latter is!
Downpatrick is always happy to receive your donations. However, we have a little bit different working schedule there. So please check our opening time by the link below before visiting us.