The Sporting Memories Foundation, with support from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, are launching social activity clubs across the islands with a focus on reducing mental health issues and social isolation for members of the community, as well as increasing opportunities for people to get together and talk about sport.
Kevin Morrison, Uist Community Sports HUB Officer & Lead for Uist & Barra Sporting Memory Groups, said: “The Sporting Memories Foundation (SMF) was originally set up in the UK to specifically support people living with cognitive impairment such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, our sessions will of course cater for people living with cognitive impairment but we also want to support all community members who would benefit and would like to attend the sessions.
"Following the Covid 19 pandemic we are seeing a secondary pandemic in the Western Isles around social isolation, the Sporting Memories clubs will hopefully contribute in a small way to alleviating isolation across our island population.”
This new opportunity for islanders has only been made possible through funding from the Western Isles Communities Mental Health Fund (£7750), the Uist and Barra Sports Council (£750), Lewis and Harris Sports Council (£750) and CNES Sport & Health (£500). The funding was used to purchase a lifelong social license to deliver SMF sessions, resources such as physical activity kit bags, retro footballs and rugby balls, replay cards and pink papers (old newspaper resources).
Steven Munro, Sports Development Officer, said: “The SMF have been great in supporting us to access funding, training and resources to develop this new initiative in the Western Isles. We believe it could make a real difference to our community to be able to meet up again after a long absence of opportunities to do so. We have a rich history of Sport across our islands including the football leagues, rugby, golf and shinty clubs, outdoor activities such as hill walking and climbing, kayaking and sailing as well as many more sports and activities that have been key to growing up on the islands.
“We hope people will come along and share their memories with others of playing, coaching and/or watching sport throughout their lives. The benefits to mental and physical health are endless when we manage to come together and talk in a social environment”
Maurice Donohue, Chief Operating Officer for Sporting Memories Foundation Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to be expanding our network of clubs to the Western Isles. As we slowly come out of the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is vital we provide an opportunity for older people across Scotland to come together to improve mental and physical wellbeing as well as tackle challenges such as isolation through sports reminiscence and gentle sporting activity.
“We’re hoping this first step into the Western Isles, thanks to the support of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the funding parties will enable us to increase our engagement with communities in the Western Isles and beyond into the future.”