The Happiness Project – Peas and Love

By Declan Donnelly

FOR 13 years, Cloughmills Community Action Team has pioneered activities which benefit the community and the local environment.

The Incredible Edible Cloughmills project is starting to yield real benefits for the community and attract the attention of other communities who now look to Cloughmills as an example of best practice. There have been a number of awards and extensive media coverage in the last 18 months and now is the time to capitalise on the potential of this project.

The Happiness Project will explore what we actually need to make us happy. It considers all of the aspects which make a community sustainable, in other words a community where people feel safe, valued and where physical and emotional needs are met. It is partly based around the 5 areas which contribute to emotional and physical well being:

Connecting with people, the community and the environment around you

Being active, physically and mentally at a level which suits you

Taking notice of the world around you

Learning new skills or rediscovering old ones

Giving time to yourself, family or community; random acts of kindness

The Happiness Project has a number of key elements:

Cloughmills Natural Health Service’

Setting up a ‘Natural Health Service’ in Cloughmills, working with the Health Centre and other health professionals to establish a programme of activities all based in the natural environment. These could include growing fruit, vegetables and flowers, planting trees, woodland management or other environmental activities. Alongside this, people may be able to avail of support from exercise professionals on a one to one basis. Opportunities exist for activities such as ‘yoga in the yurt’! The overall objective is to improve physical and emotional health.

Expanding Incredible Edible Cloughmills/Old Mill Project

This will involve additional growing sites around the village, increasing the scope for community involvement. We will also look at the potential for using land to the rear of the Old Mill, bringing this into community use. Plans include a pathway, raised beds, meeting facilities[yurts] and the opportunity to host courses and training for people within and outside Cloughmills. Ultimately, we want to look at how and where we grow or obtain food, how we purchase and consume food and what we do with leftovers. This element will consider the capacity of Cloughmills to produce more of its own food through growing or the natural resources within the village and its rural hinterland.

Woodland

We have the opportunity to use the woodland area between the bridge and the Zen Zone for woodland activities. Part of the application involves learning new skills and ensuring the woodland isn’t just seen as an area of anti social behaviour. As with all activities, biodiversity and connecting with the world around us will be at the core of the woodland project.

The Happiness Bit

It is recognised that if people’s emotional and physical needs are met, they will be happy. If there are gaps, this can lead to health problems. Beginning in local schools, we want to find out what actually makes people happy. By developing a set of indicators for young people’s happiness, we can then address any gaps which in turn should lead to less emotional health difficulties in later life.

The Natural Step

This is the framework the whole project fits into. The Natural Step has been widely used across Europe and is a way for the community to create a vision of an ideal Cloughmills, working backwards to make this a reality. It is a bit like a mixing bowl with all the other bits the ingredients. If we put it all together, we get the perfect cake.

If successful, this project will start in August 2011 and finish in September 2012. It builds on the successes of Cloughmills to date but it also helps build a future where people in Cloughmills are in control. It will help Cloughmills to become a community which makes things happen, rather than one which waits for things to happen.