In summer 2009 Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland (CVNI) celebrated the twenty fifth anniversary of the organisation in Northern Ireland, with the official launch by Professor David Bellamy in April 1984. However, another important milestone is the involvement with Clandeboye Estate and Lady Dufferin, which started in the autumn of 1984 and has now surpassed its twenty fifth anniversary as well.
CVNI’s facilities at Clandeboye Estate are its greatest resource and have allowed a huge range of educational and public awareness projects to take place.
There have been huge changes in Northern Ireland and the world as a whole since 1984. Much of CVNI’s work is influenced by availability of funding and many of the earlier projects came to a natural end and were subsequently replaced by other projects. During the 1980s unemployment was high and CVNI was heavily involved in training and support of the unemployed, but this area of work declined in the late 1990s with increasing prosperity and falling unemployment. In recent years there has been an increasing focus on activities to help the unemployed gain skills relevant to seeking employment.
During the first decade of CVNI Northern Ireland was still in the grip of the Troubles, but the ceasefire and Good Friday Agreement brought peace and a new devolved government. Over recent years, CVNI has been involved in supporting the peace process by delivering cross-community environmental projects which have offered a new way for people from Protestant and Catholic communities to work together on joint projects to improve their local area. During the last 25 years CVNI has moved from delivering basic one-day training courses to be an accredited centre for a range of nationally recognised qualifications such as NVQs and holding contracts to deliver government training programmes such as Training for Success.
The concept of biodiversity emerged after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and much of CVNI’s work now focuses on biodiversity and achieving actions which are part of the national targets to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010. In the future, actions to promote awareness of climate change and to reduce their carbon footprint will be an increasingly important part of their work.
Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland is immensely thankful to Lady Dufferin for her ongoing support and the huge resource which she has given to us over the years.