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The fund that’s making a big difference for young people at a Dublin city farm

The Coca-Cola Thank You Fund awarded €5,000 to St. Anne's City Farm and Ecology Centre in 2020, and now youth groups impacted by the pandemic can apply for the 2021 Fund

A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way towards making someone feel appreciated. When it comes with funding to support the good work they are doing, it’s even more valuable.

One initiative that provides invaluable support for young people within the community is the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund, which has already donated €1,155,000 to 100 non-profit organisations in Ireland since its launch in 2011.

Over that time the Fund has evolved to meet the changing needs of young people.

“Last year we reimagined the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund in response to Covid-19, with our support focused on those most at risk from the immediate challenges of the crisis,” explains Agnese Filippi, country manager at Coca-Cola Ireland.

“The Fund was established to help marginalised young people and this year we’re working with our colleagues in Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling company to fund programmes and projects that are committed to building societal resilience across the island of Ireland,” she says.

This builds upon the strong legacy which the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund has created within communities across the island of Ireland with funding provided to local initiatives that help young people ‘build for better’.

Making a difference at a Dublin city farm

St. Anne's City Farm and Ecology Centre in Dublin’s Raheny, which is run entirely by volunteers is a great example of how funding from the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund can be beneficial for young people and the community at large. For these young helpers, who range in age from secondary schoolers to school leavers, helping out at the farm is a labour of love, explains Slaine Kelly, youth team co-ordinator at the centre.

Now St. Anne's City Farm and Ecology Centre can give back to their volunteers thanks to the funding they received from the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund last year. Designed to give back to local Irish not-for-profit organisations, it helps organisations to fund youth orientated projects that matter to their communities.

The initiative has run for more than a decade and it’s now the turn of the team at St. Anne’s City Farm to say thank you to all the wonderful young people who give up their time each week to help look after the animals.

All our animals are rescue animals. This is their forever home

Slaine’s mother Marion was the driving force behind St. Anne's City Farm and Ecology Centre’s creation. As a committed environmental activist, she worried that young people growing up in the city centre increasingly have no first-hand experience of where food comes from.

“For some children chicken no longer even means a bird, it’s the nuggets they have for their tea,” says Slaine.

Marion travelled across Europe, at her own expense, to gather examples of best practice in city farming and persuaded Dublin City Council to provide space, which it did in a corner of St. Anne’s Park in Raheny. A team of volunteers, including Slaine, transformed it into Dublin’s first city farm, which opened in 2019.

Young people have flocked to it ever since. “From the very beginning the kids in the area started coming in and helping out. They practically run it on their own now,” laughs Slaine.

Weekends are an especially busy time at what has become, for many young people, an important social hub.

“Many of the kids live locally and, although some live in houses, many live in apartments, or in rented accommodation where they can’t have pets. These are kids who love animals and would absolutely love to have a dog or a cat as a pet, but aren’t allowed,” she explains.

At the City Farm they tend to a wide range of animals including goats, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, horses and ponies. Each helper has their favourites.

“There are no words to describe the connection that a child who loves an animal has with that animal, but it is some kind of magic,” says Slaine.

Some of the centre’s regular helpers are shy when they arrive. Others have autism. Some simply find it easier to connect with animals than with people, she says, at least at first.

“Over time, as they see that everyone else here loves animals too, they find that common ground, and their confidence just goes through the roof. It’s about having a community, finding your tribe,” she says.

The centre’s Senior Youth Team, for those aged 15 to 21, has 40 members. Its Juniors come to the City Farm with their parents and includes 20 families.

Finding the fund

The Youth Teams run the school tours too, showing other young people around. It was the Youth Teams who found out about the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund and applied for it.

“All our animals are rescue animals who are not going into the food chain. This is their forever home. We need to pay for feed, insurance and vet bills, so the kids are always looking for ways to fundraise,” Slaine explains.

“Each of the Youth Team members insisted on recording a video to say what the farm means to them. I was in tears watching it.”

The young people knew exactly what they wanted to spend the money awarded from the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund on too – workshops from experts to help them increase their knowledge about farming, animal behaviour and animal welfare, as well as an outdoor classroom facility that local schools can use.

“Having this success was a huge source of pride for them, because it showed them that people appreciate what they do. It’s validation for all their hard work,” says Slaine.

It's about having a community, finding your tribe

She has ear-marked some of the money to go towards wellness programmes for the young people too, in recognition of the stresses the pandemic has imposed on them over the past year.

“The confidence the whole initiative has given them is quite amazing. I’d recommend anyone thinking of applying for the Coca-Cola fund to go for it,” she says.

This year’s Coca‑Cola Thank You Fund is now open to applicants

Coca-Cola Ireland has just opened its 2021 Thank You Fund and is encouraging non-profit organisations to apply.

“With the help of our wonderful ambassador Rachael Blackmore and the continued support of our long-standing partners, Irish Youth Foundation and YouthAction Northern Ireland, we hope to inspire local leaders seeking funding for initiatives that will help young people ‘Build for Better’ to apply to the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund, and help drive some really positive change in their local communities,” says Agnese Filippi.

It will award grants of between €5,000 or €10,000 – totalling €100,000 – to charities, community and voluntary organisations, sporting groups and NGOs seeking funding for initiatives that support and inspire young people (16-25 years old) to develop the skills they need to succeed in a post pandemic environment.

Under the overall theme of “Building for Better” it is seeking applications which fall under one or more of the following three categories:

  • Educational, Training, Resilience Programmes for Young People
  • Programmes that support diversity and inclusivity in young people
  • Programmes that take an innovative approach to demonstrating sustainability to young people.