Helping mark our 50th anniversary, we’re getting to know some of the people making a difference in our communities.
Next up, is Peter McDonald, Manager of Leafair Community Association in Derry/Londonderry who has built up an excellent rapport with Housing Executive staff over the past 27 years.
Peter is a former tenant and has worked extensively with the Housing Executive over the years to help create the hub for Leafair Community group from old garages.
He said; “It all began in garages that first belonged to the Housing Executive and they were built in the 70s.
“The idea was for people to park their cars but people back then couldn’t afford cars and so they were used as a depot for the Housing Executive maintenance team.
“They were used for a while and became derelict and a refurbishment scheme came into the area and people had to be moved out of their homes and this was used as storage for people’s furniture.
Peter then asked Seamus Kelly, former Housing Executive West Manager to lease the garages as a community base and the group moved in around 1996.
“There was two shutters at the front and a light and I went back to Seamus and the running joke is that I asked for lighting and the Housing Executive came out with an electrician to fit a couple of lights and the whole place ended up getting rewired.
“That was really the beginning of the association and to this day we have a great working relationship with the Housing Executive,” he added.
Peter works closely with tenants and is always on hand with his team to help sort any problems.
The community group has also grown so much it now has a 3G pitch, well-being centre, play park and allotments.
An extension has also recently been put on the building, which is open daily from 9am to 10pm.
“We cater for the whole community with a number of programmes that we run for both the youth and elderly in the area. Now we have 14 paid staff here and we created employment in an area that had high deprivation.
“Between here and the new well-being we’ve got three social enterprises, and we run a number of programmes too.
“We bring in young people to work on projects and we have 15 posters at the pitches of local sporting people who have achieved great things.
“When I moved here it was one of the roughest areas and I have been here a long time and we have a settled community here now and so many people have gone and bought their houses,” he added.
Watch our interview with Peter below.