Not so long ago, residents of the Lord Street and Avoneil areas felt that their neighbourhood was run down and often overlooked when it came to support and resources.
Then four years ago, driven by a desire to make a positive difference to their area, around a dozen residents came together to form the Diamond Project. The volunteers, who are mostly women, range in age from teenagers to older people – many of whom have lived in the area their whole lives.
The group are passionate about their neighbourhood and have been hugely successful at getting local residents engaged in the decision making processes that benefit everyone in the area.
One of their achievements has been the complete transformation of the physical environment, including a new community garden, the development of a community hub in previously derelict flats, traffic calming, planting, and the replacement of paramilitary murals with positive images. All of these projects have been developed with full participation of the people living in the area.
The Diamond Project has also helped to build a sense of community in the area through regular events like a Halloween disco, a summer festival and Christmas parties for the young and old alike. The group, which is a Charter NI managed project funded by Belfast City Council, has worked with over 1,000 people on issues such as employment, education, health and social inclusion, and their efforts have helped to secure over £1 million of resources for the neighbourhood.
One of the volunteers summarised: “Before the Diamond Project our place was a dump and a dumping ground - nobody wanted to live here. Now it is great. I am proud of our area and want to bring up my children here.”