Born into a rural farming community near Portaferry, Patricia Fleming, 53, has worked in community action for almost 20 years. Despite having lived in London, New York and Gibraltar, it is Belfast that Patricia now calls home, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, three cats and dog!
Patricia currently works for WOMEN’STEC, the largest quality provider of training for women in non-traditional skills in Northern Ireland. During her 18 year career at WOMEN’STEC, Patricia has continuously addressed issues of equality and equal rights for everyone. She said, “The key to this is education, information and access. Through my work at WOMEN’STEC I have been providing women with the capacity to build confidence to make informed choices in their lives and their community.” Patricia does this by engaging with employers and organisations to work towards equality for a more vibrant economy.
It’s not just in her professional life that Patricia’s passion for community work is evident. As a firm believer in reinvesting into her community, Patricia has begun voluntary work through her children. She said,“I believe in giving back, so I have volunteered in Belfast Circus School, The Festival of Fools, Riding for the Disabled, and our Local Youth club. I am fully involved in the Livery Yard where we have 2 horses”. Evidently, Patricia fully engages in the community spirit, in all that she does.
Patricia’s first exposure to The Big Lunch came in 2018, when The Big Lunch community walker, Michael, (then The Big Walk) came to WOMEN’STEC during his journey. She said “I had never heard of The Big Lunch before, but I was hooked. I walked with him that day and was blown away with the concept of the Big Walk!”
This year, Patricia joins a team of The Big Lunch community walkers across the UK. Representing Northern Ireland, Patricia hopes that her Big Lunch community walk will inspire, engage, and encourage others into action. She said “I want to be a role model for other women, to prove you can do anything you want. For my 14-year-old twins, to emphasise to them the importance of community. For them to be proud of me and of our local community.”
For Patricia, The Big Walk community walk isn’t just an opportunity to inspire others, but is also a chance to highlight the types of community she herself grew up in. She said “Through The Big Lunch community walk, I would love to highlight rural communities and the amazing work they do. Most rural communities experience isolation, loneliness and lack of belonging. It is these organisations I would like to meet, hear their concerns, connect them with other groups and generally give them a boost.”
Patricia believes that in rural communities, like her own Portaferry, it’s difficult to engage the community in community activities. She hopes that should The Big Lunch community walk visit these areas, it’ll act as a spark that ignites excitement and give people a sense of belonging.