Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been investing in Ireland for over 15 years, and the AWS InCommunities Fingal Fund is just one of the many ways we demonstrate our continued commitment to both local communities and Ireland as a whole.
The AWS InCommunities Fingal Fund is managed and administered by ChangeX, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Dublin. Its community engagement platform is designed to get funding and resources directly into citizens’ hands so they can lead impactful projects in their neighbourhoods. The €150,000 fund has helped launch or expand community projects like the Stepping Stone Ponds, Foróige Sound Cabin, and The Big Idea (details below).
“We remain focused on establishing and sustaining meaningful relationships with the local community in Fingal, and to make a positive difference in the communities in which we operate, particularly in areas like environment, health, wellbeing, and education. Projects like The Big Idea, Foróige Sound Cabin and Stepping Stone Ponds create an environment for students to learn about problem solving and creativity, as well as inspire a curiosity in nature. These are all skillsets that will help students as they progress through school and into further education,” said Neil Morris, Country Lead, AWS in Ireland.
To date, AWS has awarded funding to 36 projects in Fingal and the surrounding areas to help make a lasting and positive impact in the community, with nearly 1,000 people taking part in local projects. Here are some of the projects the AWS InCommunities Fingal Fund has supported so far:
Stepping Stone Ponds
A companion project of the Stepping Stone Forests, Stepping Stone Ponds are designed to complement the mini forests that volunteers have been planting in schools across Dublin.
Long-time environment volunteer and founder of the Stepping Stone Forests movement, John Kiberd, works with a team of volunteers to cultivate the mini forests and wildlife ponds. It was environmentalist, campaigner and supporter of Stepping Stones Forests, Collie Ennis, who encouraged John to introduce ponds as a complementary habitat near to the Stepping Stone Forests, to help further improve biodiversity.
According to John, the goal of installing the ponds and forests is to combat the twin threat of climate change and biodiversity loss, all while giving city children exposure to nature that they may not normally have access to.
John said: “I’ve worked with AWS for a long time through their support and funding for the Stepping Stone Forests, but the Stepping Stone Ponds will be directly funded by the AWS InCommunities Fingal Fund.
“Ireland is known for being a green country, but we only have about 11% tree cover which is well below the European average. People have become distanced from nature, so we want to bring it back into schools with the mini forests and the wildlife ponds so kids can be exposed to nature every day.
“The funding from the AWS InCommunities Fingal Fund is a total enabler. There are costs to planting trees and creating ponds; we need equipment like diggers and materials, and these are covered completely by AWS. Their involvement has made other corporates take an interest too which is great, and often we have AWS employees looking to volunteer with us on our event days. It’s an amazing thing, because our volunteers and even the school children are planting a tree and planting a legacy. They might one day tell their children how they planted the forest they are playing in.”
Foróige Sound Cabin
Kevin Lacey is the Youth Officer in the computer club at the Blanchardstown branch of youth organisation Foróige in Fingal. He’s leading a project funded by the AWS InCommunities Fingal Fund to turn a previously unused cabin into a state-of-the-art musical creation space for young people in the area.
Kevin said: “Foróige is Ireland’s leading youth organisation, and the sound cabin we’ve created with the funding from AWS is both a melting pot of musical creativity and a safe space for young people to meet and socialise. The funding from AWS InCommunities Fingal Fund has gone exclusively into buying instruments and audio production technology that our service users wouldn't normally have access to.
“One thing it’s helped us purchase is our modular synth. We work with a lot of young people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and Autism, and they can become agitated or lose interest if we ask them to look at a computer for too long when making electronic music. The modular synth is really tactile, so we’ve had a lot of success with our young people who can’t sit at a computer for very long or struggle with traditional instruments like the guitar, a bass or piano.
“In Ireland we have a rich connection to music and it’s a significant part of our historic and cultural identity. It’s a form of communication that helps us when we don’t have the right words to say, or if we don’t speak the same language. If you sit down and play a tune with someone you can connect in quite a deep way. This is especially important for migrants and refugees in our community, or neurodivergent people who might not feel confident with their communication skills.”
The Big Idea
The Big Idea is a free, award-winning creative educational programme in Ireland that helps to embed transformative skills like critical thinking, problem solving, resilience, empathy, communication and collaboration into the Irish educational experience for 15 to 19-year-olds. The AWS InCommunities Fingal Fund has supported 30 students from New Cross College and Lusk Community College to take part in the programme.
“Our young people are facing some of the biggest issues that we've ever seen, from climate change and mental health, to healthcare issues and hidden poverty - but they are being left behind when it comes to learning critical skills needed to help solve these in their own lives, but also in their future careers and for wider society,” said Niamh Cooney, Head of Development and Sustainability at The Big Idea.
“The Big Idea gives students and teachers access to a 14-week programme and hundreds of diverse industry mentors from companies all across Ireland to come up with an innovative solution to an issue of their choice, all linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Making this kind of education available to all young people is part of our mission to work collaboratively with our partners and their employees to bridge the gap between industry and education, and to democratise access to creative thinking skills.
“It is part of our vision to make Ireland the most creative and innovative nation in the world, by equipping this future workforce with the skills needed to adapt, think creatively, and approach challenges with a problem-solving mindset.
“The funding from AWS directly helped us fund 30 student places on the programme this year. This is so important as it helps us remove access barriers and offer the programme for free. It allows us to develop our programmes with internal resources, build out our bespoke mentoring platform, and most importantly, provide all the materials needed by students and teachers to take part in Think Big packs for the classroom. These packs include things like building materials for systems thinking, reflection charts, notebooks, creativity cards and so much more, levelling the playing field for all of our students.”
AWS InCommunities is dedicated to building a world where every person has the opportunity to live a life of dignity on a healthy planet. The AWS InCommunities Fund has helped launch or expand community projects in local neighbourhoods in Fingal and Drogheda and we’re excited to see the lasting impact and legacy over the new few years.
Read more about AWS InCommunities.