What we do Older people Reading Friends launches in Northern Ireland Reading Friends Northern Ireland launched at Older People North West, Waterside, Derry/Londonderry on Monday, December 10. Reading Friends Reading Friends is a nationwide programme designed by The Reading Agency, and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. The programme is delivered in partnership with organisations across England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Reading Friends in Northern Ireland is supported by Verbal. Older People North West Following an open application process, funding of £10k was awarded to Older People North West to enable their service users and older people in the Derry/Londonderry area to participate in the Reading Friends programme. Reading Friends is an exciting, new UK-wide programme designed to tackle loneliness by building connections through shared reading. The project will help older people by reducing isolation and loneliness. Reading and talking with trained volunteers will help to address challenging life issues and offer a new social outlet. The Launch In the festive setting of Malvern House, home of Older People North West, a group of 10 older people and invited guests gathered for the first Reading Friends session. We began with speeches of welcome and wishes for the success of the project and its importance in maintaining and renewing social relationships. Our speakers were Christine Carlin and Albert Smallwoods MBE, Older People North West, James Kerr from Verbal, and Laura Wigzell from The Reading Agency and Reading Friends. First Reading Friends volunteer Dermot Kelly, one of our newly trained Reading Friends volunteers, read the O Henry story, The Gift of the Magi. Donna Ford, another new volunteer, read Thomas Hardy's The Oxen. We talked about giving and receiving gifts at Christmas, and times when money was in short supply for presents, just like in the story. Christmas wishes Participants wrote their Christmas wishes and placed them on a birch tree The event ended with lunch and music - thoroughly enjoyed by all. Press release You can read our press release for the launch of Reading Friends here.