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Twenty projects tackling social issues arising from COVID-19 in the Western Isles have been awarded funding from the CalMac community fund.

The funded groups announced on Thursday last week (1 April) are all working to help people experiencing mental health issues, social isolation, loneliness or poverty and each has been awarded between £500 and £2,000.

Already announced as receiving aid are The Leanne Fund, which received an award for its work to provide counselling and mindfulness coaching to those who have been struggling with isolation.

Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI) has been funded to continue their work supporting people who experience cancer through their centre on Bayhead, and Tong Residents Association has gained support for a youth mental health project.

Seventeen other funded projects include the Isle of Harris marina sea school, which plans to tackle social isolation by offering maritime skills training, and West Harris Trust, which plans to use horticultural activity to address social isolation.

Crossroads Care in Harris is to receive funding for training for care providers who give respite to disabled people.

In Barra and Uist, funds are going to the Barra Youth Café, Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy for a creative mental health project and to Coigach community development for a pop-up café for elders.

Caraidean Uibhist plan to continue the virtual tea party project which they piloted in March, addressing loneliness and isolation, while Women for Mission in Uist plan to use DIY craft packs to tackle social isolation.

The west side of Lewis sees funds distributed to Uig Community Centre Association, for outdoor sports equipment, to Urras Sgire Oighreachd Bharabhais Community Company and to Clan Macquarrie Community Centre.

Among the island-wide projects seeing CalMac community funds, Advocacy Western Isles will get help towards technical equipment to help support clients presenting with mental health issues and Volunteering Hebrides will be able to address loneliness through a befriending arts project.

Western Isles Foyer is to be supported with the development of online services and Long Term Conditions Hebrides will be able to continue Friday funtime sessions, yoga and mindfulness, while Neuro Hebrides plan online activities to create a digital scrapbook.

Lewis and Harris Women’s Football Club plan recreational sessions to maintain their social contact while games are still suspended and Western Isles Community Care Forum are also to gain CalMac’s support for activities including first aid training.

The Western Isles awards are among 60 awards made in this funding round. Half of these address social isolation, a third mental health support and the remaining awards go to projects addressing social isolation, poverty, or a social issue relative to the respective community. 

Recent research forecast that, for every pound spent by CalMac, communities across the network benefit from a social return of £5.14. In previous funding rounds, CalMac has supported projects that benefit the lives of children and young people.

Gordon McKillop, CalMac's corporate social responsibility manager, said: "The CalMac Community Fund is much more than corporate giving. The community fund was created to make a difference for our communities and customers, and we are beginning to see its impact and value.  

"The last year has been turbulent for so many and the third sector has responded magnificently across our network. There are still many challenges to come as we progress through the COVID-19 pandemic and I hope the awards we have made alleviate some of the social issues that arise consequently." 

For more information about the CalMac Community Fund, visit the website

The image shows some of those participating in Caraidean Uibhist’s virtual tea party in March.