An innovative community fund is helping address a gap in the provision of counselling services in Derry / Londonderry for young people, but more needs to be done according to a local charity, Aurora Counselling.
The Building Better Futures fund provided £25,000 to help turn a property in the city centre (Bishop Street) into a popular children’s role-play based centre, Le Petit Village, as well as a number of counselling rooms.
The brainchild of local woman, Francesca Kelly, the ambition is that income generated by the play centre, a first for the city centre, will help subsidise badly needed counselling services for those aged four to nineteen. According to Francesca the need for such services has never been higher:
“Young people in the city have never been under such pressure and there’s a distressing level of problems associated with family breakdown, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal feelings.
“Thanks to the Building Better Futures fund, Aurora Counselling established a social enterprise, ‘Kidz Playtime’, which opened Le Petit Village earlier this year. The centre has proved very successful, with every weekend between now and Christmas booked out for children’s parties and future bookings already secured for March 2019.
“We’re also able to provide a number of separate rooms for young people who require counselling, but such is the demand and the lack of suitable resources in the city that more needs to be done. We’re currently exploring new options to provide further dedicated support.”
Building Better Futures is a £1m fund supported by three Northern Ireland charities, Belfast Charitable Society, Building Change Trust and Ulster Community Investment Fund (UCIT).
Launched last year, the fund offers unsecured loans of between £1,000 and £25,000 to help groups become more financially sustainable. The loans can be used for a wide range of purposes, including buildings and repairs, equipment purchase, making facilities more energy efficient or funding shortfalls in larger grant assisted projects.
Damian McAteer, Vice Chair of UCIT which manages the fund and is one of the UK’s largest social finance specialists, added:
“The Building Better Futures Fund was designed to support innovative projects such as ‘Kidz Playtime’ which meet a real social need in our communities.
“The project is committed to providing social, emotional and cognitive development for the city’s children, but to also use the popularity of its play centre to support the provision of badly needed counselling services for young people.
“We were particularly impressed by the imaginative approach taken by Francesca and others in addressing a pressing social need. We would be keen to hear from other charities, community organisations and social enterprises based in the city and beyond to discuss how the Fund could help them achieve their ambitions”.
‘Le Petit Village’ was recently named by the Derry branch of the Junior Chamber International as the city’s friendliest business. Aimed at under-sevens, it supports role playing in its mini market, pizzeria, doctors, beauty salon, construction area, fire truck, cottage and farm. The centre is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and also offers ‘Le Petit Café’ which serves snacks and drinks for grown-ups.
Belfast Charitable Society was established in 1752 to tackle disadvantage and poverty, building a Poor House and Belfast’s first Infirmary which remain as Clifton House. Today the Society continues to work to tackle disadvantage throughout Northern Ireland and promote philanthropy while sharing its heritage with others.
Building Change Trust was established by the Big Lottery Fund supported by a National Lottery grant of £10million to help build community capacity and the promotion of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland.
Further information about the fund is available by contacting UCIT on 028 9031 5003 or visiting www.ucitltd.com
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