"An Drochaid", Claggan, Fort William
Just over two years ago, local community groups in Lochaber expressed the need to have premises which could offer shared resources and facilities for voluntary and community organisations from the area.
Voluntary Action Lochaber (VAL, the local CVS) was given the mandate by community representatives to co-ordinate the efforts of the local community sector into finding an appropriate site that would improve the co-ordination of the community sector and enable closer working between these groups.
VAL soon identified a local Community Centre in Claggan as a suitable building. Claggan is a small community situated not far from the centre of Fort William. The first step was to engage the services of an architect. Next, it was necessary to identify groups that were in need of the premises. A business plan was soon written which was closely followed by applications to the Community Fund, the Community Land Unit, and the Local Enterprise Company.
Discussions were held with local councillors and the firm backing of the Highland Council in Lochaber soon followed. This proved to be an important development as an unforeseen delay in receiving a decision from the Community Fund meant that we nearly lost the building, which at the time, was on the open market.
The disused Centre had been encouraging vandalism and contributed to a general feeling within the community that Claggan was a depressed and 'forgotten' area. To make matters worse, the building had been the local community centre which, had twice previously failed to be successful. We encountered a pronounced cynical attitude towards the community's ability to make this venture work. By bringing the building back to life as a voluntary/community sector centre, this attitude has begun to change. These benefits are not always easy to quantify but nevertheless, the community feels are as important as the benefits of employment creation.
We were now ready, the building was ours, the plans had been drawn, we had recruited the Architect, the Clerk of Works, the Engineers, the Contractors and the mass of other people that are involved (but sometimes never seen) with a project of this size. The task was easy, in theory. All you need to do is take one disused ex-community centre that was effectively an empty shed and turn it into a plush three-level modern office and conferencing complex in twelve months. July 2001, some sixteen months later and after a whole lot of sweat, tears, sleepless nights and copious amounts of Vallium…An Drochaid is finally born.
The centre was called An Drochaid which is Gaelic for the bridge, this name seemed perfect as it symbolised what we were trying to achieve, which is to bridge the gap between services and the community; the statutory sector and the community and voluntary sector.
Amongst the facilities that An Drochaid provides are:
- Shared Resources
- Office Accommodation
- Meeting Rooms
- Conference Facilities
- Café/ Catering facilities
- Children's Play Area (registered for childcare)
- Lending Resource Library
- Office for "Hot Desking"
- Information Boards
- Public access internet-ready computer
- Supported Training Placements
- Volunteer Opportunities
These facilities are used by the following local organisations:
- Childcare Partnership
- Social Work Services Children's Resource Team
- NCH Surestart
- Age Concern Scotland
- Family First
- Lochaber Citizens Advice Bureau Carers Project
- Lochaber Music School
- Crossroads Carers Scheme (including Breakaway scheme)
- Lochaber Community Care Forum (including Handyperson Scheme & Community Car Scheme)
- Talk Lochaber
- Highland Vision Services
- Community Enterprise Lochaber
An Drochaid has now been operational for six months and it has surpassed all expectations.
The improved relationships and understanding between groups and agencies has resulted in more effective joint-working and enabling a better service to the local community.
Bookings for the facilities have been phenomenal, not only from voluntary organisations but increasingly from business and statutory agencies not only in Lochaber but from all across Scotland.
Between opening in July until December 2001 the centre had thirty-two separate conference room bookings from voluntary/community groups and, in addition, regular bookings from ten statutory agencies and local businesses…this is already increasing for the year ahead.
For more information, contact:
Karen Macinnes or Margaret Colyer
Voluntary Action Lochaber
Fort William Tel: 01397 706055 / 701123
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
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