Kilcooley Women’s Centre runs successful summer scheme for children and tenants

A group of school children pose with a teacher in a costume
Pictured at the back row from left to right is Housing Executive Patch Manager for Kilcooley Estate, Tanya Johnston, Head of Childcare Services at Kilcooley Women’s Centre, Tracy Harrison, Kris Fisher from Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory, Alison Blayney BEM, Chief Executive of Kilcooley Women’s Centre and Housing Executive tenant and volunteer, Deborah Caldwell.

A number of Housing Executive tenants from the Kilcooley Estate in Bangor have enjoyed volunteering at Kilcooley Women’s Centre Summer Scheme.

Held in Kilcooley Community Centre over a three-week period, local children from the area have been able to gather for the first time since Covid-19 regulations.

This year, Kilcooley Women’s Centre has also held a second summer scheme for Lisnabreen and Whitehill estates in Shiloh Christian Fellowship.

Alison Blayney BEM, Chief Executive of Kilcooley Women’s Centre said she was “delighted” the summer schemes have been able to go ahead this summer after periods of lockdown.

She added; “We have been involved in this summer scheme for 15 years now, providing volunteers from the estate and the Women’s Centre and also young volunteers too through the council’s volunteering scheme.

“We were approached by Ards and North Down Borough Council a few years ago who asked us to get on-board with this summer scheme and the first couple of years we done this we had 80 children – right up to 110 kids before Covid-19. 

“This is the first year we have held the summer scheme with two estates and we are so happy to see it running again, thanks to the support from a number of agencies, including the Housing Executive.”

Through the summer scheme, children have been able to enjoy a visit from Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory, Bubble Soccer World and paddle boarding at Ballyholme Yacht Club.

Tracy Harrison, Head of Childcare Services at Kilcooley Women’s Centre said; “This year the numbers had to be significantly reduced due to Covid-19 and so we decided we would run two schemes in two different venues and alternate the children over each week.

“It is great that we can provide volunteering opportunities for tenants on the estate and all of the children always have a great time – and enjoy something nice to eat while they are here too.”

Deborah Caldwell, Kilcooley Estate resident and Housing Executive tenant said she has enjoyed helping out and volunteering at the summer scheme. 

“All of the children love meeting their friends and other children, as well as getting the opportunity to go out to different places with the scheme.

“We have already been to Castle Espie and all the children have really enjoyed Aunt Sandra’s being out and showing them how to make chocolate pizzas and other fun creations. Volunteering with the scheme is really enjoyable as it’s a different experience for me too.”

Owen Brady, Ards and North Down Area Manager for the Housing Executive, said he was happy to see local children and tenants enjoying themselves with the summer scheme.

He added; “It is great to see that children from the Kilcooley Estate have been able to take part in such a worthwhile summer scheme after a tough year with Covid-19 related lockdowns.

“Thank you to Kilcooley Women’s Centre for their excellent efforts with this scheme and also enabling Housing Executive tenants to volunteer.

“This has created an excellent opportunity for them to also mix again with other adults and enjoy some social interaction too during the summer months.”

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