COLIN Sure Start recently held its AGM with a celebration event to mark 20 years since its foundation. In attendance at the event were the full staff team and Board of Directors, representatives of Colin community organisations and the voluntary sector, parents and some of the key individuals who helped to set up the Sure Start project in Colin back in 2002.

Sure Start is a government funded early years initiative, supporting families in the earliest years of their children’s lives, from the antenatal period right up to age four, and provide a range of both home-based support, groups, parent support and also pre-nursery children’s play programmes. The Colin Sure Start project covers the Poleglass, Twinbrook, Lagmore, Mount Eagles and Kilwee and Glengoland areas, and now employs 32 permanent staff, with a further three specialist Speech and Language Therapy staff seconded from the HSC Trust. The focus of the work is to improve health, social and educational outcomes for all children in the catchment area by providing parents with support from a multi-disciplinary team to access practical help and groups, and giving children the best possible start in life through positive early relationships and interactions and high quality play opportunities as they become toddlers.

The evening’s event, held at the Balmoral Hotel saw a number of presentations by staff and Board members, as well as speeches from several parents who have participated in Sure Start over the years. Parents spoke highly of their experiences with Sure Start, about how attending the groups and programmes helped develop their confidence and knowledge as parents, get to know other families in their community and how their involvement helped with their children’s development in many ways, play skills, social skills and their communication and language development.

20 YEARS: (Left to Right) Roger Winter, Colin Sure Start Manager; parentsStephen and Jacqueline O’Neill, John Conlon and Patrick Nolan

20 YEARS: (Left to Right) Roger Winter, Colin Sure Start Manager; parentsStephen and Jacqueline O’Neill, John Conlon and Patrick Nolan

Information and displays at the event also showed the journey that the project has made over the past 20 years, new services that have grown and developed based on local need that are specific and unique to the community, such as a dedicated father’s service and worker, significant developments in the provision for children with additional needs and or disabilities, work with ethnic minority families and also the development of the antenatal services and breastfeeding support. The event also saw staff members who had reached particular milestones of service for the organisation of ten, 15 or 20 years acknowledged.