The community of Lochs in the Isle of Lewis has appointed a local development officer to help them deliver an economic, social and cultural plan for future growth.
Originally from Kershader, Lochs, Helen Sandison, (32) studied and worked on the mainland for five years before moving back to Lewis with her family, and now works in her home village where her post is based.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is supporting up to 40 communities in the most fragile areas of the Highlands and Islands by funding key posts to work locally with a range of community groups.
The Lochs Community Development Group comprises six representatives from North Lochs, Kinloch and Pairc. Co-chomunn na Pairc is the anchor organisation which employs Helen.
Since starting her new post in October, Helen has been getting in touch with all the community groups in the Lochs area to introduce herself and explain her role. An initial list has been compiled of potential development areas that the community may be interested in taking forward, including developing walks and tracks, tourism, archaeology, housing provision, community woodlands and crofting development.
The next stage will be to hold consultation events in the area to invite the wider community to discuss, agree and adopt the community plan which will form a strategic development document of the area.
Helen is available to assist any organisation currently in the process of developing a project either through providing advice, assisting with funding applications or background information.
Helen originally left the Isle of Lewis to study a BA in Community Education and is delighted to be working in this field of work. She said: "I am really happy to be able to develop and deliver community growth plans in the area I grew up in and I look forward to working with local people and getting their input for potential developments. I can see there is a wide range of existing and potential future development opportunities around Lochs that use the communities and natural human resources.
"My job is to co-ordinate and support these opportunities with the organisations and the people who drive them for the benefit of the area."
As well as being part funded by the European Union's LEADER programme as part of the community account management programme, support is also provided from a HIE member of staff. HIE account manager, John Macdonald will be working closely with the community group.
John, said: "We are really pleased that Helen has been appointed to lead on community development projects in the Lochs area. She has already been engaging with the community to find out what they would like to see in their area. We look forward to see further developments for the benefit of Lochs in the future."
Helen is keen to hear from people or groups who need assistance or advice on specific projects on how to see Lochs flourish. She can be contacted on 01851 880296 or Helen@lochslewis.org