GROUPS and organisations in the Greater New Lodge area are being invited to apply for the annual Ashton Community Bursaries.

Distributed by the Ashton Community Trust and now in their seventh year, the purpose of the bursaries is to provide assistance to other community-led projects, especially where there is clear evidence of voluntary input and where resources for a group are scarce.

To date, 75 bursaries have been granted to local groups involved in activities such as sport, art, music, health, housing, culture, history, remembrance, safety and well-being.

In providing financial support, Ashton Community Trust is recognising the fantastic efforts of those directly involved in voluntary action on the ground and who reflect the great community spirit to be seen in the New Lodge.

To be eligible for a bursary, groups must be inclusive, non-party-political and working in the greater New Lodge area. They must also be meeting local need by providing local services under modest resources because they find it difficult to access funding.

Paul O’Neill, Community Development Worker at Ashton Community Trust, said the bursaries help recognise the great community work that goes on in the local area.

“It’s about trying to support voluntary work in the area such as sports clubs who are operating with very little budget,” he explained.

“The bursary scheme allows organisations and groups to apply for up to £500 funding. To date, we have paid out somewhere in the region of £35,000 to local community groups in the greater New Lodge area.

“It’s a great help to groups who are struggling a bit and is open to anyone who can prove they are working on a voluntary basis.

“I think the bursaries are crucial for some groups. Some people have come back to us and said the bursaries have been life-savers for them.

“The money of course is important but it’s also about recognition for the great work that goes on in our local community.

“You hear a lot of negative stuff that goes in the community and it’s rare to hear positive stuff.

“We’re there to help and support voluntary work in the local area in whatever way we can,” he added.

Ashton Community Trust is an award winning regeneration charity that has been delivering services in North Belfast for over 25 years. It employs over 160 people delivering a wide range of services.

The Trust has a number of departments which have an online presence and you can visit their websites, like their pages on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to be kept up to date on the activities of Ashton Community Trust. Ashton’s service delivery outputs are an important element in community and social development in North Belfast.

If you have received a grant in the past you must provide some detail about how this was used for the benefit of the local community.

The maximum grant available is £500 with the total grant fund available £5,000.

For a bursary application form contact Louise Hunter at the Ashton Centre, 5 Churchill St, BT 15 2BP or call 90742255 or applications can be collected from Ashton Centre reception.

The Application closing date is Friday, November 4, 2016.