Strong bows and hard targets...

Members of the Men's Health Group taking part in an archery day at Ballymagroarty Community Centre, front from left, Ciaran Gormley, Yo Project, Billy Page and Colin Canning. Back row, from left, Joe Ferry, Micky Deehan, Jim Temple, Gerry Sharkey, Rodney Smith, Yo Project, John Devine and Roxanne Nixon, BHCP and NHIP health development worker. (0406PG09)
Members of the Men's Health Group taking part in an archery day at Ballymagroarty Community Centre, front from left, Ciaran Gormley, Yo Project, Billy Page and Colin Canning. Back row, from left, Joe Ferry, Micky Deehan, Jim Temple, Gerry Sharkey, Rodney Smith, Yo Project, John Devine and Roxanne Nixon, BHCP and NHIP health development worker. (0406PG09)

The sign on the front door read ‘CAUTION - ARCHERY IN PROGRESS’, so, understandably, I decided to enter using the back entrance.

Men of all ages stood with bows and arrows in their hands inside the Ballymagroarty Community Centre and as each arrow was released a cheer of celebration, regardless of where the arrow landed, rang out.

“It’s all about having fun but there’s real competition to see who can get the most points here today,” said 30 year-old Christy Daniels.

Christy is unemployed and lives with his wife and children in Stephen’s Court in Ballymagroarty.

Christy said getting involved with the local men’s health group helps him to stay active and it’s also helped him to identify a possible career path.

“I’ve always wanted to give something back to the local community and what better way to do that than to volunteer.

“I am not working at the minute but after getting involved with this group it would make me want to consider a job as a community worker - I just find the experience so rewarding.”

As Christy moves back inside the room where the archery is taking place another loud roar erupts - one of the older men in the group has just hit a bull’s-eye.

“It’s great craic in here today - you probably can’t here yourself think,” smiled 75 year-old Gerry Sharkey from Templegrove.

Gerry explained the best thing about the local men’s health group as far as he was concerned was the variety of activities on offer and the varying ages of all the men involved.

“It’s nice to get out of the house and come to a place and have a bit of craic with other men.

“I didn’t really know anyone when I started coming here a year and a half ago but I’ve made a few friends here and I look forward to meeting up with everyone each week.”

Archery lessons are but one example of the various activities the men’s health group have sampled over the last 12 months.

“We’ve spent a lot of time working on the little community garden in Shaw’s Court - now that the good weather is here perhaps we’ll be able to start sampling the vegetables and herbs - a lot of hard work went in to the garden this year,” exclaimed Gerry.

At that, Gerry said thank you and goodbye and returned to have a few goes at hitting the bull’s-eye - he didn’t let his team down.

The local men’s health group is managed by the Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank Community Partnership (B.H.C.P.) and is funded by the Neighbourhood Health Improvement Project (N.H.I.P.).

N.H.I.P. Health Development Worker for the Outer West, Roxanne Nixon said the men’s health group was a lifeline for some men living in the community and lamented the sad passing of one of its members recently.

“Some of the men in the community wouldn’t get out of the house if it wasn’t for this little community group.

“ The men meet as regularly as they can and it’s all totally free. Obviously a big part of what we do is to help the men look after their physical health but their mental health is equally as important.

“Jim McCallion sadly passed away a few weeks ago. Jim was a prominent member of the group and he will be sadly missed. He was the life and soul of the group and I know many of the other men in the group miss him dearly,” said Roxanne.

For more information on the Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank Men’s Health Group telephone B.H.C.P. on 028 7127 1977.