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The festive season is a time for reflection, for love and cheer, for making memories and spending quality time with family and friends. It is also a time for community and for charity.

The cost of living crisis continues to affect people across the island of Ireland, but also social enterprises and businesses striving to deliver social impact in the Community and Voluntary Sector.

As you contemplate your Christmas list this year, why not consider some of the gifts and activities that support social enterprises in your area? Delivered by volunteers and community champions, these home-grown experiences and products are great gift ideas, and will also deliver social impact to communities that are local to you in Munster.

Here are just a few ideas for you to think about:

Terryglass Community Hall, Co. Tipperary

Learn how to cook delicious mince pies and pick up tips on how to perfect your favourite festive snacks with TV Celebrity Chef Catherine Leyden (Ireland AM). Catherine comes to Terryglass Community Hall for a one-off festive cookery evening on Wednesday 30th November.

Tickets are priced at €25.00 and can be purchased through the group’s facebook page or in the Derg Inn Shop.

Sailing Into Wellness, Co. Cork

Sailing into Wellness is a not for profit social enterprise born out of a passion to utilize the unique setting of the sea to help our communities. The organisation’s vision is for Sailing into Wellness to be a healthy natural solution for our communities to look after their physical and mental well-being and it is their mission to use the sea to inspire change in our communities.

Sailing Into Wellness is open to everyone and could be the perfect solution to help de-stress after the Christmas period, or offer an opportunity for something to look forward to in the slow month of January. To find out more or to enquire about a booking, visit their website.

Sneem Digital Hub, Co. Kerry

Sneem Digital Hub has something for everyone – employees, employers, remote workers and small business owners. The Hub is a modern and stylish facility with competitive packages and state of the art facilities available in a rural locale to suit your requirements.

During the winter months, they are running a special discount offer for people living in the local area. To find out more visit their website or contact aidan.murray@sneemdigitalhub.

Christmas Competition

Community Finance Ireland have teamed up with Martin Hurls to offer a £100 voucher to spend on their wares. One lucky winner will win this in our Facebook Competition running in the lead up to Christmas. To be in with a chance of winning simply visit our the Facebook post and follow the instructions to be entered into the draw.

Spending your time and money in these venues and on these products not only helps deliver social impact but is an endorsement that, the local volunteers and committees’ efforts are valued.

#SocialTime is always a good time.

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The festive season is a time for reflection, for love and cheer, for making memories and spending quality time with family and friends. It is also a time for community and for charity.

The cost of living crisis continues to affect people across the island of Ireland, but also social enterprises and businesses striving to deliver social impact in the Community and Voluntary Sector.

As you contemplate your Christmas list this year, why not consider some of the gifts and activities that support social enterprises in your area? Delivered by volunteers and community champions, these home-grown experiences and products are great gift ideas, and will also deliver social impact to communities that are local to you in Connacht.

Here are just a few ideas for you to think about:

Ballinasloe Town Hall Theatre, Co. Galway

Ballinasloe Town Hall’s Christmas panto Cinderella is performed by local drama society B’Sloe Panto and marks their return to the stage for their first Christmas show since the Covid 19 Pandemic. Running from Monday 5th December to Sunday 11th December it’s sure to be a fun day out for all the family.

Tickets for this event are available online or from the ticket office at J&S Photos, Society Street, Ballinasloe.

The Glens Centre, Co. Leitrim

It has been two years since their last community Christmas show, but the Rabbit’s Riot Theatre Company are back with a new show written by Treasa Nealon, directed by Sonia Norris and produced by the Glens Centre.

The characters of Fairy-Tale Land TV Show are on strike! The prince is tired of rescuing the princesses, the villains are in dire need of some anger management and the step-mothers just want everyone to know how misunderstood they are! But Sarah is determined to get them on her screens, because otherwise she will have to spend more time with her family and less time on her phone.

Join her on her unexpected and magical journey through Fairy-Tale Land this December. With four shows running from 9th to 11th December, get your tickets now.

An Mheithal Comhshaol Co-Op, Co. Mayo

The award-winning An Mheitheal Rothar (AMR) are a social-sustainable enterprise based in Galway city who are rolling out an expanded service at their community workshop at NUI Galway and at their retail outlet in Galway Shopping Centre, thanks to recent investment from Community Finance Ireland.

Founded in 2012, An Mheitheal Rothar provides access to cycling and cycling mechanic skills training to people in Galway, regardless of their ability to pay. In 2018, the social enterprise introduced their award winning ‘Recycle Your Cycle’ initiative, which repairs and upcycles second-hand bikes.

Whether you want to view the latest range of bikes on offer or book your own bicycle in for a fine tune, visit their website for more info.

Christmas Competition

Community Finance Ireland have teamed up with Martin Hurls to offer a £100 voucher to spend on their wares. One lucky winner will win this in our Facebook Competition running in the lead up to Christmas. To be in with a chance of winning simply visit the Facebook post below and follow the instructions to be entered into the draw.

Spending your time and money in these venues and on these products not only helps deliver social impact but is an endorsement that, the local volunteers and committees’ efforts are valued.

#SocialTime is always a good time.

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The festive season is a time for reflection, for love and cheer, for making memories and spending quality time with family and friends. It is also a time for community and for charity.

The cost of living crisis continues to affect people across the island of Ireland, but also social enterprises and businesses striving to deliver social impact in the Community and Voluntary Sector.

As you contemplate your Christmas list this year, why not consider some of the gifts and activities that support social enterprises in your area? Delivered by volunteers and community champions, these home-grown experiences and products are great gift ideas, and will also deliver social impact to communities that are local to you in Leinster.

Here are just a few ideas for you to think about:

Dunbrody Famine Ship, Co. Wexford

The Santa Wonderland Experience returns to the Dunbrody Visitor Centre again this year for 11 dates, commencing on Saturday 3rd December and running right up until 23rd December.

Come along to the Magical Wonderland, meet mischievous elves, HoneyComb & Peppermint, and see Santa & Mrs. Claus busily preparing for the most important night of the year.

Santa and his hardworking team are determined to pull out all the stops to ensure everyone has a safe and memorable visit.

It’s a mesmerising experience from start to finish and offers families an abundance of photo opportunities. Tickets are priced at €18 per child (this includes an age appropriate present) and €10 per Adult. For more information and to book your slot visit the website.

Castlecomer Discovery Park, Co. Kilkenny

Castlecomer Discovery Park’s elf village becomes Christmas central this year, as they light up the area around the fairy houses to gear up the festive feels. The beautiful Christmas lights transform the space into a wonderful destination for a winter walk.

Children aged 3-8 can bounce off some pre-Christmas energy in the bouncing nets and junior adventure course and take part in the elf on the shelf scavenger hunt, while mum and dad can enjoy hot chocolate or mulled wine from the Canopy Café.

For more information and to buy tickets visit Castlecomer Discovery Park’s Website.

Butler Gallery, Co. Kilkenny

Butler Gallery continues its successful partnership with the immensely talented Kilkenny-based and five time Oscar© nominated Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon, in an exhibition response to their new animated film My Father’s Dragon, directed by Nora Twomey.

The film is based on a beloved 1948 fantastical children’s novel by Ruth Stilies Gannett about Elmer Elevator, a boy who runs away from home to rescue Boris, a captive baby dragon trapped on a wild island.

The exhibition which runs to the 29th January is curated by Anna O’Sullivan, Butler Gallery Director, and designed by award winning exhibition designer Steven McNamara of Roji.

The exhibition combines the expertise of Butler Gallery’s exhibition team with Cartoon Saloons worldwide reach and distinctive style to develop an immersive, sensory and child-centred exhibition experience that will captivate audiences of all ages. Get your tickets now.

Christmas Competition

Community Finance Ireland have teamed up with Martin Hurls to offer a £100 voucher to spend on their wares. One lucky winner will win this in our Facebook Competition running in the lead up to Christmas. To be in with a chance of winning simply visit our the Facebook post and follow the instructions to be entered into the draw.

Spending your time and money in these venues and on these products not only helps deliver social impact but is an endorsement that, the local volunteers and committees’ efforts are valued.

#SocialTime is always a good time.

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The festive season is a time for reflection, for love and cheer, for making memories and spending quality time with family and friends. It is also a time for community and for charity.

The cost of living crisis continues to affect people across the island of Ireland, but also social enterprises and businesses striving to deliver social impact in the Community and Voluntary Sector.

As you contemplate your Christmas list this year, why not consider some of the gifts and activities that support social enterprises in your area? Delivered by volunteers and community champions, these home-grown experiences and products are great gift ideas, and will also deliver social impact to communities that are local to you in Ulster.

Here are just a few ideas for you to think about:

The Strand Arts Centre, Co. Antrim

Strand Arts Centre is the only remaining cinema from Northern Ireland’s golden era. A jewel of Art Deco design, the venue has been at the heart of the East Belfast community for decades.

This year’s Christmas movie offerings include classics and family favourites: It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Elf, Muppets’ Christmas Carol and Die Hard (Is it a Christmas movie?).

Their live Christmas spectacle for 2022 is Once Upon A Time: A Magical Princess Adventure with shows on 2nd and 3rd December and the CBeebies Panto Dick Whittington and His Cat (which will screen live at the Strand on 3rd,4th, 10th and 11th December) are a great excuse for some quality time with the kids to get you in the festive mood.

For more information, to book your tickets, or to buy Strand gift vouchers for the cinephiles in your family, visit the Strand’s website.

Bolster Community, Co. Down

Bolster Community (formerly Space NI) is a charity and social enterprise that offers practical support for individuals and families, helping them to get through and get ahead.

As part of their activity the organisation manage the candle-making social enterprise Acorn. Every Acorn product is handmade in Northern Ireland by a gifted community of young adults with additional needs. They provide their makers with a ‘scents’ of achievement and ensure every purchase provides them with pride, purpose and opportunity. By buying social, all profits from your purchase goes back into supporting Bolster Community’s vital services.

You can buy one of their unique scented candles from their website, a perfect stocking filler.

Martin Hurls, Co. Antrim

Martin Hurls is an artisan maker of hand-made hurls used in Gaelic Games. As well as producing some of the best hurls in Ireland, they also have a range of equipment, apparel and mementos to keep you looking & playing your best. The perfect gift for sport lovers at Christmas time. Check out their range online.

Christmas Competition

Community Finance Ireland have teamed up with Martin Hurls to offer a £100 voucher to spend on their wares. One lucky winner will win this in our Facebook Competition running in the lead up to Christmas. To be in with a chance of winning simply visit our the Facebook post and follow the instructions to be entered into the draw.

Spending your time and money in these venues and on these products not only helps deliver social impact but is an endorsement that, the local volunteers and committees’ efforts are valued.

#SocialTime is always a good time.

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The city of Derry~Londonderry has long been synoymous with Halloween. Known as the Halloween Capital of Europe and voted the best place in the world to celebrate it.

The festival returns in 2022 and will run from Friday 28th October right through until Halloween night. Featuring family orientated activities like monster making arts and crafts, a pumpkin hunt and Halloween storytelling. For older visitors there is cemetery tours, a dress up silent disco and music gigs from Alabama 3 and Hudson Taylor. There’s also a big fireworks finale.

If you are visiting Derry~Londonderry this Halloween, this is a also a perfect opportunity to visit some of the local social enterprises in the area. Delivered by volunteers and community champions, these local visitor experiences’ core purpose is social impact as well as visitors’ enjoyment.

Access to the Arts for All

Greater Shantallow Arts is a community arts organisation that aims to provide direct access to the arts within disadvantaged communities in the Greater Shantallow Area/Outer North Region of Derry. Their Studio 2 premises is one of Ireland’s best loved Arts centres. The group provide a range of activities from theatre shows to classes and workshops. The highlight of their year is their partnership with North West Carnival to create a wonderful Halloween Carnival.

Sensory Support

ASpace2 MultiSensory Centre provides day opportunities for adults and children with additional needs. The five multi-sensory rooms are designed to ensure that children and young adults with additional support needs are able to access a community facility which is age appropriate and is meaningful regardless of ability.

Book your Choice – there’s loads to choose from:

New Gate Arts & Culture Centre is a vibrant arts and culture centre located in the Fountain area of the city. Close to the historic walls and the city centre it offers a range of workshops, classes, performances, talks, tours, festivals and cultural events with something for everyone.

Inclusive Coffee taste:

The Whistle Stop Café is found on Derry’s Foyle Road and is part of the North West Learning Disability Centre. It is the perfect stop for a bite to eat or a delicious baked treat after a visit to the nearby St Columb’s Cathedral. The café is a fantastic social enterprise that offers employment opportunities to people with disabilities. 

History Buffs this way:

The Museum of Free Derry is dedicated to telling the story of what happened in the city between the years 1968 and 1972. Located in Derry’s Bogside where the events of Bloody Sunday unfolded, particular focus is paid to those most involved and effected by these events. The exhibition aims to remember and help understand the local history of the city and its contribution to the ground breaking civil rights struggle which erupted in Derry in the mid-1960s and culminated in the massacre on Bloody Sunday. A must see for any history aficionados.

Visit the Farm and make new friends

Just a 20 minute drive outside of the city, Gortilea Social Farm provides a space for practical, meaningful and enjoyable day experiences in a rural environment irrespective of ability or disability. Visitors can look after a range of livestock from sheep, cattle and horses as well as learning about growing and cooking healthy meals. Providing both indoor and outdoor activities ensures that there is something to do no matter the weather conditions. 

Spending your time and money in these venues not only helps deliver social impact but is an endorsement that,  the local volunteers and committees’ efforts are valued.

#Social Time is always a good time.

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Today (16 June 2022) Ulster Community Investment Trust Ltd t/a Community Finance Ireland held its all island AGM in person for the first time in three years. As part of the AGM the team officially launched its 2021 Annual Report.

The report published today highlights the following key takeaways:

Northern Ireland

  • £2m of loans into 14 local projects;
  • £7.2m to 354 charities via much needed grant payments in collaboration with Department of Communities NI and NICVA; and
  • £4.4m to 152 SME clients through the management of NISBLF Fund II since 2018.

Republic of Ireland

  • €2.2m of loans into 26 projects in the Leinster Region;
  • €1.2m of loans into 15 projects in the Munster Region;
  • €0.1m of loans into 4 projects in the Connacht Region; and
  • €1m of loan approvals into 17 projects in Ulster (excluding NI).

With a client portfolio, whose core assets are predominately its volunteers, the 76 projects saw their own belief mirrored back to them and secured term or bridging loans which supported them in:

  • Keeping their doors open;
  • Pivoting their business;
  • Ensuring their viability when their services were needed more than ever; and
  • Ensuring their sustainability as the island transitions to a new normal.

In what was another extraordinary year for the history the organisation and for the communities and citizens on the island of Ireland Donal Traynor Group Chief Executive said the following:

“Our team continue to ensure social impact is felt not just dreamt and 2021 was no different. Dreams were realised and progress was felt right across the island. Choose change is indeed the mantra of the sector and the volunteers who keep it vibrant. We are delighted to be part of that change, whilst recognising there is always more to do.”.

Donal Traynor, Group Chief Executive Community Finance Ireland

View the report in full here.

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Social finance is a unique form of funding. It helps communities and social enterprises make progress and build sustainable services whilst creating that elusive “social impact” footprint.

It can help projects move to the next exciting stage and many of our clients have done so by accessing both flexible term and bridging loans.

Here at Community Finance Ireland, our team have 21 years experience working with sports clubs (Kilcoo GAC, Co. Down), health/social care services (Foyle Women’s Aid. Co Derry), community halls (Billy’s Tea Rooms Co. Kilkenny) and digital hubs (Sneem Co. Kerry); all of whom have found that social finance enabled them to achieve social impact in their local communities.

A social enterprise, charity or community-led organisation may find themselves looking at their finance needs when assessing a project. While grants can play a role in supporting their objectives, there are those in the sector who also understand that a loan can be part of the solution and help build that new sports facility, re-roof the church, support additional employment or build office facilities in a remote village.

If your organisation is considering a new project, restructuring its finances or has an idea that will drive social impact then here are the Top 5 Tips that will make it easy for you to apply for a social finance loan:

Top 5 Tips for Success:

  • Tell us about yourself

Share what issues you are seeking to address, the facilities you wish to develop or the opportunity you see in your local communities.

  • Confirm Eligible Legal Status

Ensure appropriate governing documents are in place and the applicant organisation has the appropriate power to borrow. Outline the details of those responsible including the list of Directors and/or Trustee

  • Management Team

Highlight the positive attributes of the people behind the project, including: Commitment to improving their community, Track Record, Professional Experience and Skills. Also, evidence clear communications and insights along with sound financial management skills.

  • Financial Performance

Financial stability is a key way to show your organisation will be able to repay a  loan. Alongside financial stability, factor in the social and environmental impact too.  Your ability to repay is assessed by looking at past, present and future finances. These typically include:

  1. Access to previous projects results.
  2. A review of past audited accounts.
  3. Assess relative trends and fundraising capacity.
  4. Recent management accounts, loans held, bank statements and debtors/creditors listings.
  5. Future financial projections.
  • Demonstrate Social Impact

Typically our successful clients are driven by local job creation, local facility development, delivery of health & social care support plus the promotion of diversity and inclusion.

Our Clients Choose Us, as We Offer:

At Community Finance Ireland, We Speak Finance. But We Hear People.

In summary, social finance continues to grow in popularity as a route to helping change-makers deliver the change they want to see and be part of. Whatever you see and whatever it is that you dream of we are waiting to hear from you.

Get in touch here: https://communityfinanceireland.com/contact/

Ends.

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As an all-island brand, with a growing team, our colleagues live and work in Down, Antrim, Meath, Donegal, Waterford, Limerick, Cavan, and Louth. Whilst they also have the option to work at our dedicated office spaces located in Ardee, Co. Louth or in Belfast City Centre.

In light of both the NI and RoI governments’ decision to relax Covid restrictions our team are now working “the new norm”.  

With Northern Ireland’s growing confidence in an office versus home working environment and the Republic of Ireland creating a Bill to pass legislation protecting employees working from home (The Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021) the traditional five days a week, office based working model is now clearly in transition.

Our team at CFI, have technically spent the best part of the last two years working from home (often at the kitchen table or in some cases a bedroom) and as we settle into our new norm, we asked our people what were the pros and cons they learnt from their experience and how will this experience support them in their day-to-day delivery of social finance solutions to grassroots community clients and projects.

Here’s what they had to say:

“With my home base at Strangford Lough, a hybrid working model allows me to maximise my use of time effectively as I can block out days for new client meetings and when at home, focus on administrative aspects.”

Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance N.I

“Hybrid working is great and allows all colleagues to work where most comfortable. For me, being in the office is important for setting my own boundaries between work and home-life.”

Peter Smyth , Client Relationship Manager N.I

“Working from home has really helped me flourish in my career. I thrive on quiet time where I can focus on strategic papers or analytics and have found zoom meetings suit my working style.”

Nicky McElhatton, Marketing and Social Media Executive

“I joined CFI during the pandemic. My role is Front of House and I really enjoy the office environment. With a newly designed office space in Belfast, I can continue to work safely alongside others.”

Nick Heath, Front Office Administrator

“Having a blend of working-from-home and the office breaks up the week. With a flexible working schedule, this has really helped give me an improved work-life balance.”

Stephanie Nicholl, Compliance Officer

“Working-from-home is something I have gotten used to. Although, I do miss the aspect of being in the company of my colleagues as work relationships are not always the same behind a screen.”

Sandra Cowan, Finance Officer

“My week is usually now 70% office based with 30% working-from-home. I have adapted well to this new rhythm and have also found that as a Manager of a team, the trust with my people has improved greatly.”

Barry Connolly, Group Chief Financial Officer

“The ability to work remotely has given me the chance to spend more time at home. With less distractions, my time spent working is more productive and I have my cats for company, all day.”

Emma Thompson, Finance Executive

“A blended approach allowed me to meet colleagues whom I would not of come into contact with as much whilst working remotely. I am able to create relationships were I can reach out to colleagues from different departments which is hugely beneficial as I start my career.“

Jack Lennon, Marketing Intern

“Hybrid working works excellently for me with a team based all over the country. It offers me the ability to work wherever I might be needed, for both my team and my clients. As long as my phone and laptop charger are optimized, I find the flexibility of different working locations can ensure I can be where I am needed at all times.”

Emmett O’Hara, Head of Community Finance RoI

“My role finds me on the road quite a bit, meeting clients. This regular travelling is balanced by my ability to work from my home on days where I am liasing with other team members and assisting clients from a remote location.”

Anne Graham, Client Relationship Manager Donegal and Connacht

“My role has always been remote and as such, the hybrid working model has little impact on that working style. But what has been welcome, is that many of my colleagues now also have the same working pattern.”

Barry Symes, Client Relationship Manager South East Leinster and Waterford

“I joined Community Finance Ireland just over six months ago and have found zoom meetings invaluable in helping me connect with my new work colleagues.”

Nora Keogh, Client Relationship Manager Munster

“Working from the office is a key benefit to me that helps with my part-time hours and the logistics of family life. Office based work continues to be my personal choice but it’s great to have the ability to work from my kitchen on occasion.”

Terri Martin, Office Manager and Micro-Finance Lead RoI

“Working remotely has never been a barrier to my ability to deliver great work or to engage my colleagues or agency partners on key projects. I have found that meeting in person is always welcome but that with excellent IT support working from home offers a flexibility that really suits my way of working. This new norm has shifted me from a ‘work – life balance’ view to a ‘life –work balance’ view and I love it.

Lita Notte, Head of Marketing and Communications

“A hybrid structure has worked well for me. With the flexible option of remote work or going to the office I have a genuine sense of work-life balance. Time not spent commuting has been redirected to time spent in my local community.”

Pauline Carolan, Office Administrator

“A hybrid working system has been great for everyone here at CFI. With a small team, it allows us to grow resources in all regions of the island and connect with all communities. We swiftly introduced technology and IT supports to help our people and give them the tools they needed to continue to liaise with clients and each other. For me personally, it is great to have a balance with a new Belfast office acting as a hub in more recent months.”

Donal Traynor, CEO Community Finance Ireland

In summary, much like the uniqueness of our people, hybrid working offers different things for everyone. But in essence flexible working practices (either office or home) is successful and our team are very much “fans” of the new norm.

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Last week Donal Traynor our CEO was on hand to help ‘Dress for Success’ expand its reach in Northern Ireland.

As the leading global non-profit employment resource for women our team were on hand to celebrate the initiatives expansion in Northern Ireland, with the opening of a second branch, situated at the Glengall Exchange, in Belfast City Centre, under a new tenancy from Community Finance Ireland.

Dress for Success Northern Ireland is managed by Foyle Women’s Aid and to date has supported over 200 women through its first branch which opened in 2018 in Ashleywood House, Derry/Londonderry. 

This is the only affiliate of the global Dress for Success brand operating in the island of Ireland, there are more than 140 affiliates operating in 20+ countries across the globe and marks an important achievement in the organisation’s growth and reach in Northern Ireland. 

Dress for Success empowers women into the workplace from positions of disadvantage by providing professional clothing and styling, skills and confidence, interview coaching and ongoing support once they re-join the workplace. 

As an equal opportunities company, as well as a registered social enterprise and charity ourselves, our team is delighted to support Dress for Success and aid their ambitions to help women going back to work.

We feel privileged to be able to host the Dress for Success Northern Ireland team, as well as its future service users at our premises, and wish them every success in this new chapter of their history.”

Donal Traynor, Group Chief Executive Officer (Community Finance Ireland)

To find out more about Dress for Success or to refer to its services please contact Sarah Quinn, Programme Manager, 0771 963 681 or email sarah.quinn@foylewomensaid.org.

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Today CFI’s impact was in evidence as Nora Keogh Client Relationship Manager for the Munster region, provided support to social enterprise Recruit Refugees Ireland based in Cork.

Nora had this to say:

“We are delighted to help support Recruit Refugees Ireland and its ambitions to break down barriers to meaningful employment for refugees – the work they do really is delivering impact in the Cork region”

Nora Keogh, Client Relationship Manager (Community Finance Ireland)

CEO Roos Demol outlined to Nora how her team are committed to an inclusive and diverse Ireland and in supporting career aspirations for those who are now living in Ireland.

Community Finance Ireland delivers social finance solutions that support local communities and drive social impact through sports, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. 

Community Finance Ireland was established in 1995, and now supports a diverse portfolio of clients across the island of Ireland from Bantry to Belfast, and from Dublin to Dingle.

Currently, Community Finance Ireland is the only Irish and UK member of FEBEA, the European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks.

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