‘It is the aim of the Ardoyne Afterschools Club to provide quality, registered childcare in afterschools hours for children ages 4-15, and to provide play opportunities aimed at meeting their social, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional developmental needs, thus also enabling parents to access training, employment and education.’

This is the Mission Statement of the Ardoyne Afterschools Club which has been providing an essential service to our community for the past 24 years. The coronavirus pandemic has been by far the toughest test we have ever faced. We as an organisation decided to remain open during the crisis to help out in any way we could during these difficult and unprecedented times. We are based in a strong and resilient community and that positive spirit that has seen the people rally together and overcome so much adversity over the years has stood by us and enabled us to continue to provide our service to our children and to those of the front-line key workers, Social Services referrals and Belfast Trust and NHS Staff.

We have worked as best we can within the Trust and Governmental guidelines, particularly with regards to social distancing, wearing of PPE, cleanliness and hygiene, deep cleans etc. It has been difficult at times as children just want to play and have fun together, so at times it can be difficult to monitor and amend the children’s play so that it is within safe boundaries. The children have been resilient and adapted well to the new procedures each day and continue to play, learn and develop as best they can in these circumstances.

We would like to thank our staff who have not stopped working throughout these difficult times. Without their passion, perseverance and commitment, our Centre would have probably have had to close its doors permanently, which would have had a devastating impact on our staff, the children attending and their parents, and the community as a whole. We are like an extended family for our users and it is genuinely appreciated.

We would also like to thank Belfast Health and Social Care Trust for their assistance over the past few months. They have provided us with PPE and they have been so happy with our continued provision that they have provided us with additional funding since April and have asked us to provide morning as well as afternoon sessions in July and possibly August too. We cannot overstate the importance that this additional funding has had for the long-term sustainability of the Afterschools Club. They have also made several referrals to us and the feedback we have received from the children, their parents and Social Workers has been outstanding.

We would also like to thank the wonderful staff at PlayBoard for their relentless support and guidance. Their staff and the daily work they carry out can often go unnoticed or undervalued, but not by us who appreciate every way in which they help numerous organisations like ourselves survive and prosper. Many thanks for all your hard work.

And most importantly we would like to thank our young people, the reason we are able to do this great rewarding job and make all the ups and downs worthwhile. They have shown us the meaning of resilience and hope, and we aim to do all we can to continue to provide for them, our future, throughout this pandemic and beyond.

Damien Sparkes
Ardoyne Afterschools Club

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