A dog walking and grooming social enterprise is making a real difference to the lives of young people in Belfast, thanks to help from the Housing Executive.

A £1000 Social Enterprise Investment Programme grant from the Housing Executive to support charity MACs, who work with children and young people leaving the care system, experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, self-harm or mental health issues, helped them develop a new pet service called Muddy Paws.

Providing training and employment opportunities for 47 young people aged 16-25, who are not in education, employment or training, the project is helping participants to gain broad range of skills, from business administration to animal handling.

Workplace coaching sessions are provided, along with mentoring peer support, reducing participants’ social isolation, increasing self-esteem and upskilling them for future employment.

Participants also benefit from Millennium Volunteer Hours accreditation and the chance to build new community networks.

The Muddy Paws concept came from the young participants of MACs Led by You programme to help facilitate participants with significant barriers to access employment.

Those taking part are involved in all aspects of the Muddy Paws social enterprise project, including writing funding applications, carrying out a social media campaigns and walking and grooming the dogs.

They also designed marketing collateral and promoted the new venture.

Caoimhe, a Young Leader, at MACs said that: “I was going through a rough patch with my mental health and Muddy Paws has helped me to get out and about learning new skills and meeting people.

“I love the dogs! I would definitely say that it has positively impacted my mental health and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to volunteer here.”                                                                                         

Trevor McMahon, Team Leader at Led by You added: “Thanks to the Housing Executive for being so supportive of Muddy Paws.

“Their funding helped us to open our doors to the public and make a real difference to the lives of young people in the Belfast area.”

Connor Smith, Assistant Manager in the Housing Executive’s Social Enterprise team commented that: “We are proud to support Muddy Paws, a social enterprise that has seen real results in reducing social isolation amongst young people in the Belfast area, whilst helping them to upskill and network.”

Potential Participants can get involved by 02890 313 163 or by emailing: muddypaws@macsni.org.