“It’s wonderful to see first-hand the initiatives that are happening”
The ongoing work of Donegal Sports Partnership and its ability to collaborate with local groups and organisations to deliver valuable programmes has been commended by the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Frank Feighan.
Minister Feighnan, who has responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy, was speaking during a visit to Kiddlywinks Childcare based at Ballintra Community Centre on Monday afternoon.
The local pre-school children demonstrated the skills they’ve developed through participating in the FUN Moves and Balanceability programmes which are both funded by Healthy Ireland. FUN Moves aims to develop and improve fundamental movement skills while providing regular sport and physical activity in a fun, safe and encouraging environment. Balanceability is a specially-designed programme to teach children aged between three and six years the skills to learn to ride a pedal bike.
“It’s great to see all the stakeholders working together on programmes such as the ones we are seeing today which are teaching young children how to cycle a pedal bike,” Minister Feighan said.
“I’m aware of the importance of these types of programmes because I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old myself. Because of Covid, their schools weren’t open. For the parents, we didn’t have the skills to teach young children how to ride a bike during that period. We would like to see everyone being able to cycle safely. And as we know, cycling is good for people’s health and also helps the environment. Teaching safe cycling should be part of the curriculum, and while I think we have made huge inroads, I think a lot more needs to be done in that regard,” he added.
“Sports Partnerships are doing great work all over the country and they are going from strength to strength. What I’d say to people is that the funding is there and the goodwill is there, so come up with as many initiatives as you can. It makes sense to teach good skills while also protecting the environment.”
According to the Minister, Local Sports Partnerships are going to be hugely influential in relation to how we live our lives in the years ahead.
“The team at Donegal Sports Partnership have been leaders in the way they roll out initiatives with the local authorities. Donegal Sports Partnership has shown through its excellent work that collaboration with the various stakeholders in the community is key to successful outcomes. It’s been absolutely wonderful to see first-hand here today the initiatives that are happening, and I’ve been blown away by the great work being done,” the Minister commented.
Lynda McGuinness, HSE Senior Health Promotion and Improvement Officer, Lynda McGuinness, said: “From a health promotion and improvement perspective, the HSE is delighted to be involved and working in partnership with Donegal Sports Partnership in this Healthy Ireland initiative working with childcare settings in Donegal and rolling out the Balanceability programme. Programmes like this are immensely important for children. It’s all about their foundation and physical activity and their basic functional skills.”
She added: “They have to be exposed to children at this young age – otherwise that window is closed. It’s fantastic to see the children playing and running and jumping on the bikes. While they’re learning how to ride a bike without the stabilisers, they’re also learning a whole range of movement skills. Our vision is that the Balanaecability programme will be an ongoing programme that will be embedded within the childcare system and that it is accessible to all children.”
Also speaking at Monday’s demonstration, Denise Gallagher, facility manager, said: “On behalf of the Kiddlywinks staff, children and parents, we thank Minister and the Department of Health and Well Being for the opportunity to participate in the FUN Moves and Balancability Programmes. We found both programmes very beneficial to the health and well-being of the children. We thank Healthy Ireland for funding both programmes, and Donegal Sports Partnership and their tutors for the delivery and facilitation of the programmes. We had a very positive experience throughout the training.”
“We also thank Donegal Sports Partnership for the beautiful resources – this equipment has been a great asset to our service and we have enjoyed using it with the children. Finally, I’d like to thank my staff, children and parents for taking part in the programme. We all enjoyed it,” she added.
Lorraine Breslin, one of two staff members who are qualified to train other members to deliver the programmes, talked about the positive impact the programmes are having.
“We had a girl today who started cycling for the first time which was great and that brings the number on the current programme up to five,” she said.
“To see the children progress to the stage where they can cycle without the stabilisers brightens up their day and brightens up our day. It’s a very rewarding job. The children can take what they learn here and apply that at home with their own bike, and talk to their parents about what they’ve done here at the centre.”
Donegal Sports Partnership’s Community Development Officer, Karen Guthrie, who assisted in delivering the programmes, said she was delighted to welcome Minister Feighan to Donegal.
“It was great to have the Minister here in Donegal to see the initiatives in action and meet the people who are central in making them happen. The programme has been a huge success, and we are grateful to all the preschool providers – seven in total – who embraced the programme and brought it to life within their facility.
“The boys and girls did excellent today and it’s so pleasing to see the programme has been sustained and embedded within their daily schedule. The strength and success of this particular programme are exposing children to fundamental movement skills each day and enhancing the capacity of their preschool leaders is key,” she added.
Minister Feighan was accompanied on his visit to Ballintra by Donegal ETB Chairperson and Fine Gael County Councillor for the Donegal Municipal District, Barry Sweeny.