Grassroots diary: Macra launch good neighbours campaign
"If you don't have a neighbour, you've no one," is almost a gospel phrase that has been reiterated in rural communities for umpteen generations.
A good neighbour will keep an eye on your home when you're away on holidays, let you know if any dodgy characters are knocking about the area, give you a lift to the local shop or Mass if you don't drive, notify you if someone in your community is sick or has passed away, lend you a tyre pump, or help pull your marooned tractor out of a muddy field.
Neighbours depend on each other for information, support and security just as much as they rely on local gardai, health services and emergency responders. But ensuring the longevity of those invaluable neighbourly relationships requires time, effort and commitment from everyone in the community - young and old.
A new survey has revealed that more than 70pc of adults believe children today feel a lesser sense of community than they themselves did growing up in Ireland. The research, commissioned to mark the launch of Macra na Feirme's 'Know Your Neighbour' campaign in partnership with Calor, found the emerging trend even more prominent among urban populace, with almost one in six admitting they don't know their neighbours at all - compared to just one in 20 people in rural areas.
Sean Finan, Macra president, says a variety of factors has contributed to the stark findings.
These include a reliance on social networking and the decline in rural populations.
"We'd be worried that young people in particular are more interested in being part of a digital community than a real life community.
"Our ethos in Macra is about developing people's social and communication skills and the findings prove that Macra needs a presence now more than ever before because of this change. You can never replace personal contact and we've a huge responsibility to ensure young people see the value of those connections," he said.
However, convincing young people, particularly the early 20s cohort, is a big challenge. "They've a different outlook because things have moved on so fast, the problem is convincing that generation of the benefits of being involved at a community, volunteer level. In time you'd worry about the survival of those groups," he said.
This summer, Macra na Feirme is calling on communities nationwide to host a local event to encourage neighbours to get to know each other better.
Any group or individual planning an event should register for an organiser's pack at www.knowyourneighbour.ie.
The pack will include helpful ideas, posters, t-shirts and balloons to help make the event successful.
* Killimordaly-Kiltulla Foróige club claimed top honours at the Foróige Youth Citizenship Awards in Dublin last weekend.
The east Galway club centred their project around an awareness and fundraising campaign for defibrillators in the local area.
The Foróige Youth Citizenship Awards, in partnership with Aldi, challenges young people to look at their communities, talk to locals and decide what they can do to bring about a change for the better and then to work together to ensure that change is fully implemented.
Sarah Haslam, senior training officer with Foróige — Ireland’s biggest youth organisation working with over 54,000 young people nationwide — says Killimordaly-Kiltulla’s project hit all the right notes.
“They found out that loads of defibrillators in their area are not being used because of the cost of training people up and cost of new batteries, so they took action to raise awareness and funds to keep them maintained. They hit every criteria, thoroughly investigated issues affecting young people in their community and young people were highly involved in driving the project forward,” she said. More than 15,000 took part in this year’s programme with 2,000 entering for the awards.