Big Lottery Fund – Thanks a million!

Lottery funded textIn Northern Ireland we are expanding our network of sight loss support groups thanks to £200,000 of funding from the Big Lottery Fund NI’s ‘Reaching Out - Connecting Older People’ programme. This vital award has enabled us to triple the number of  macular support groups in Northern Ireland over five years. We are delighted that Big Lottery Fund NI has committed to funding a continuation year with a grant of £50,000, meaning it has invested a total of £250,000 to support our Northern Ireland groups and volunteers.

Chris McClure, Big Lottery Fund NI’s funding officer, said: “It has been a pleasure to meet so many of the group members, volunteers and partners involved in the project and see the incredible difference which the National Lottery grant has made to older people across Northern Ireland. I would like to congratulate Karen (Toogood, Macular Society regional manager) and her army of volunteers, who have tripled support for people with macular disease since the funding started.

“We are delighted to help sustain this growth, by funding an additional year of the project. We will be excited to watch the macular groups continue to thrive and come into their own over the next 12 months.” 

Big lottery fund and macular society staff cutting cake

Rachel Hopkins and Karen Toogood (Macular Society) with Sandra McNamee and Chris McClure (BLF NI)

We are enormously grateful National Lottery players for supporting our mission to beat the fear and isolation of macular disease by providing the best advice and support.

Nationwide support

Big Lottery Fund has supported people with macular disease across the UK, with a grant of £335,000 to boost the independence and social inclusion of people diagnosed with macular disease in Wales from 2013-18 and funding of £42,500 for rehabilitative training in the North of England in 2012. 

Macular group members and volunteers in Northern Ireland told us about the difference their local groups have made to their lives:

  • 97% had improved awareness of macular disease and available support and treatment
  • 97% had improved independence and involvement in the community
  • 90% had improved mental wellbeing and reduced isolation.

Supporting good causes

Big Lottery Fund distributes 40 per cent of the money raised by the National Lottery to support projects, both and big and small focusing on health, education, environment and charitable purposes. It invests over £650 million a year in projects, which makes a huge difference to the lives of people like Peggy Smythe, (right), who attends the Northern Ireland Bangor support group.  Peggy, 80, was diagnosed with wet macular disease six years ago.

She said: “The first time it started, I was looking in my handbag and could just see a black hole. I was shocked to hear I had macular degeneration – I didn’t know what it was and couldn’t believe anything was wrong with my eyes. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me; I didn’t know if I was going blind. 

“I used to be a great dress-maker. I can’t do it anymore. I used to drive all over Ireland. I’ve been learning to live without a car for four years now. I can’t distinguish between coins in my purse and I’m too nervous to cross the road. My husband and daughter don’t understand my world.” 

Peggy has now attended the Bangor group for five years. She said: “I love the group, I never miss itand if there’s anything going on, I join in. When you’re stuck in the house with no one to talk to about it, it’s very helpful to speak to other people. I’ve met such lovely friends, great friends. 

“I feel alright about the future. I love walking, I love my garden and I love the group. It’s a great help. We have great times at the group and you know people are the exact same as you.” 

We are deeply grateful for the substantial support from Big Lottery Fund NI, which is enabling us to reach more people like Peggy.

We are committed to increasing the positive impacts for everyone affected by macular diseasewhile sustaining the existing support which so many vulnerable people currently rely upon. Only through the generosity of all our supporters can we continue to develop and deliver our services to the growing number of people who need them.

Lady at the Volunteer Development Day in Belfast