Over 800 events are taking place nationally in an attempt to strengthen community ties and tackle social isolation.

Michael Ring TD, Minister for Rural and Community Development, is today (Fridayreminding people to reach out to their neighbours as part of The Big Hello!, the first National Community Weekend which takes place this Bank Holiday Weekend (4-6 May).  

“The Big Hello” supports communities to host events in their local area in order to strengthen community ties and help tackle the problem of social isolation.  

Minister Ring said:

“The response from communities throughout the country has been incredible, with 800 events taking place, both large and small as well as over 1000 Street Feasts who are one of our partners in this initiative 

“There is something for everyone. The events range from a cup of tea with neighbours, to sports days, community walks, music and dancing. I would encourage everyone to find their nearest event and enjoy the day meeting neighbours and friends, both new and old.”

Further details of events happening in each area can be found on www.drcd.gov.ie/bighello, and on The Big Hello! Facebook page. 

Minister Ring continued:

“The weekend is a celebration of the great spirit of community that exists across the country and an effort to help people who share communities to come together, get to know each other and deepen the sense of community in their areas, both urban and rural.   

In a world where people are spending less time in their communities and more time at work, it is important to find new ways to connect people and focus on the importance of neighbours. In our busy lives we rarely make time for each other outside of our network of family, friends and social media contacts.   

Sadly, many people living among us are experiencing social isolation and loneliness. As the Minister with responsibility for Community Development, along with my rural remit, I firmly believe that the value of this initiative is that it can help people to connect or re-connect with their neighbours and communities.  

One of the strategic objectives of my Department is the creation of vibrant, sustainable communities whether this be in an urban or rural setting.  Without actually knowing who lives besides us or in our neighbourhoods, this is very challenging to achieve.  I think the overwhelming response from communities shows that they agree with me and that they themselves share these values.”

The event is being organised by the Minister’s Department in partnership with representatives of Public Participation Networks, Local Community Development Companies, Volunteer Ireland, Young Social Innovators, Macra na Feirme, Street Feast, An tOireachtas and Change X. 

Minister Ring said: 

“I’m delighted to have the active support of a working group from across the community and voluntary sector whose input has been crucial to the design of the event. Their support and extensive community networks has been extremely valuable in promoting The Big Hello! throughout Ireland and making it the success I know it will be.”