Fermanagh and Philanthropy

 

Comment by Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust -

 

There is a wonderful tradition of philanthropy in County Fermanagh, which can be traced back hundreds of years and continues right up to the present day. As a result of this wonderful culture of giving, our County can with some justification consider itself to be the home of philanthropy on this island. Not bad for a county of 65,000 people! in the Fermanagh Trust we are celebrating this giving during Philanthropy Fortnight.       

       
In Fermanagh the benefits of setting up a charitable foundation for the County and supporting the potential of Philanthropy were recognised in the early 1990’s, leading to the Fermanagh Trust being established. This has resulted in hundreds of projects right across the Community receiving financial resources, helping people to be at their creative best and making a real contribution to community life.


The Fermanagh Trusts philanthropic work since then, has helped lead to the establishment of a number of funds and initiatives which are today providing financial support and awards, these include the Greg Turley Bursary Awards, which support our young sports people and the Joan Trimble Awards help young people support training, education and practical experience in the fields of creative/ performing arts and Irish culture. Over the last sixteen years the Fisher Foundation has also supported people from our county volunteering overseas in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the world. Next Thursday we look forward to providing resources to 13 projects and 25 local people who will be volunteering overseas this year.  


Philanthropy can be rooted in a community as can be seen in the wonderful work of the Oisín McGrath Foundation, following Oisín’s tragic passing, Oisíns family with the support of the community in Belcoo, the rest of Fermanagh and North Cavan, set up the Oisín McGrath Foundation, which today promotes organ donation, supports brain injury research and encourages youth sports development. The foundation has had such a wonderful impact, awarding grants to support young people as well as facilitating the annual 'Walk/Jog/Run for Oisín', a huge community event in Belcoo each October with over 1000 people participating.


The work of the Killesher and Cleenish Community Care Association in the two parish of Killesher and Cleenish, thanks to the generosity of the local people in West Fermanagh is another fine example of the spirit of generosity right here in our community. The community spirit evidenced here by the wonderful tradition of mumming, with neighbour entering neighbour was one of the foundation stones behind the establishment of the Association pot of money. Today the Associations charitable fund means this tradition will continue for many years to come. 

 
The Fermanagh Trust has had the pleasure to work with a number of other philanthropic charitable funds including the Fermanagh Recreational Trust which supports our young people by providing bursaries and grants to sporting organisation and the Enniskillen Yacht Club Charitable Trust which supports a range of projects including school based sporting activities and youth based sporting activities. Both these and other funds in Fermanagh are making a huge contribution to people lives.


It is hardly a surprise that Chuck Feeney, who give away approximately one billion to good causes in Ireland, grandmother hailed from the townland of Larganacarran close to Kinawley. While there is only one Chuck Feeney, the generosity of Fermanagh folk can be seen week in and week out in the work of organisations like St Vincent De Paul, who thanks to the donations of local people are able to support people going through difficult times.  Many other organisations across the County give of their time and energy to raise good causes at home and abroad. Collectively these endeavours add up to make Fermanagh a place apart.


These developments over the past 25 to 30 years are backed by a rich heritage of giving as evidenced by the support provided to County Fermanagh farmers over many years through the work of the Vaughan Trust, one of the outcomes of a substantial legacy left by George Vaughan. George Vaughan owned the Castle Hassett estate in the Kesh area. In his will of 1753 he bequeathed his properties and land, and one of the stipulations of the will was to establish a charity school on his land for the benefit of children, particularly those from an agriculture background, for boys and girls of both traditions. The rent from his land was to pay for the building and running of the school. The school ultimately closed, resulting in the Vaughan Charitable Trust being established. Since 1973 the annual income from the invested monies supports farmers and the development of agriculture in the county.   


Much has changed over the last 25 years, our world appears to have got busier, the internet and global communications have meant computers and phones play a huge role in our lives. This has led to significant changes in giving with online donations and crowdfunding playing an ever increasing role. This change in giving patterns still means today over 75% of us make donations to charity every year.  This commitment to giving and helping those near and far is something we can be very proud of.


At the Fermanagh Trust we are delighted to celebrate this charitable tradition during Philanthropy Fortnight #philanthropy fortnight, in partnership with the NI Community Foundation, Belfast Charitable Society and Arts and Business NI. The fortnight is a time to shine a light on the benefits of Philanthropy.  Our hope is to encourage even more philanthropy, stimulate debate about what philanthropy means and highlight the joy of giving amongst the young and old, individuals, families and businesses.


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