Springhill Community House, Ballymurphy, was established in 1971 by Father Des Wilson to provide a meeting place for people to discuss and study whatever was of interest to them. “Free Learning” became the basis of a remarkable journey in personal and community self-empowerment which saw 200 people a week pass through the tiny council house. When Springhill was invited to develop an entire floor of Conway Mill along similar lines in 1982, numbers increased to 400 per week. Today, its students can be found running other local community enterprises as well as the Mill itself. Springhill continues to facilitate the educational, health and cultural needs of the local community.
Adult Basic Education
Springhill’s primary aim is to target the most disadvantaged and prepare them for further education and training, at the same time enhancing the quality of their lives and their contribution to community self-awareness. Residents of the community desiring to achieve their General Course Secondary Education (GCSE) certification can complete their GCSE English and Math courses at Springhill.
Springhill’s state-of-the-art information technology facility is a community resource. Individuals can take introductory computer courses or receive training on email, online research and development of business websites – skills that they can take back to their respective community groups and share with others. Other courses offered are CLAIT and ECDL. The ECDL qualification is recognized throughout Europe as one of the premium IT qualifications.
Complementary Health Initiatives
The “Troubles” have brought untold emotional and psychological problems to the community. In response Springhill has been networking with various health providers within the Upper Springfield neighborhood as a means for referring people in need of counseling. Springhill has taken a two-pronged approach to complementary health.
The first is Therapy Training, whereby students can become qualified therapists in complementary health techniques through the Belfast Health Initiative and the Belfast School of Homeopathy, the first of its kind to be established in the City of Belfast. Courses in Reflexology, Aromatherapy, Homeopathy, Indian Head Massage and Acupuncture among others are offered, with diplomas awarded for successful completion.
The other area is Therapy Clinics. Patients receipt complementary health treatments for various ailments that have been unsuccessfully treated by conventional therapies. Springhill and the Conway Education Centre work together to provide the various complementary health techniques.
One such clinic is the Drug and Alcohol Detox Clinic which uses acupuncture for the treatment of drug and alcohol dependency. Acudetox was first introduced in the U.S. on an Outpatient basis in 1974 at Lincoln Memorial Hospital in the South Bronx of New York City. By the mid-80’s the success of this unique treatment became so evident that treatment facilities across the U.S. began incorporating acupuncture into their treatment programs. Today over 1,000 treatment programs in the U.S. use acupuncture, and the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association of the U.S. has trained over 5,000 clinicians in the U.S. and worldwide.
Springhill seeks to promote social inclusion and self-help. The dignity of the individual lies at the heart of all its work. This has involved tackling the apathy, frustration, anger and violence that has resulted from generations of social and economic deprivation, and moving from dependency and victimhood to a mindset of “We have it within us to solve our own problems – and we shall do so.”