Barnardo's Clubs In Downpatrick And Saintfield Call For Volunteers

Barnardo’s NI ‘Play for All’ Saturday Clubs in Downpatrick and Saintfield have been running for over ten years.

Set up with the South Eastern Childcare Partnership for children aged 5-12 with learning difficulties, sensory impairments and medical conditions, they provide a range of activities. The Clubs also encourage the children to bring along their siblings, cousins or friends so they can all play together.

[caption id="attachment_56379" align="alignleft" width="390"]Nicole McGeean with a couple of the members of the Barnardo's Club in Downpatrick. Nicole McGeean with a couple of the members of the Barnardo’s Play For `All Saturday Club in Downpatrick.[/caption]

Downpatrick Club Leader Kim Rogan said the aim is to give children with a mix of abilities the opportunity to have fun for two hours every other Saturday.

She added: “We work hard to make sure there is something everyone will enjoy. The clubs always follow a routine of free play and crafting, followed by a snack, then baking and then some run around games.”

“Over the year we also organise outings and invite guests along like music and art therapists. What makes the Saturday Club different is its mix of abilities, it’s somewhere the children can all come together to play. It also gives parents a break for two hours which can be invaluable if you are caring for a child with a condition or illness.”

Kim, who is from Downpatrick, has been the leader for five years and juggles it with being a special needs nursery assistant during the week. Helping Kim are six volunteers, most of who are aged between 16 and 19. The volunteers all complete Barnardo’s safeguarding training and other training courses are also offered.

Sixteen year old Nicole McGeean from Downpatrick is the youngest volunteer. She started by coming along with her sister from the age of eleven and says she wouldn’t miss it, adding: “There is a lovely atmosphere. The children really enjoy it and it’s so nice to see the children growing up, and I feel like I am doing something good and helpful.”

[caption id="attachment_56380" align="alignright" width="390"]Members of the Barnardo's Saturday Club  pose for a photograph. Members of the Barnardo’s Play for All Saturday Club pose for a photograph.[/caption]

Suzy Agnew from Ballynahinch has only recently started volunteering with the Club. She saw the opportunity advertised online on Volunteering Now and decided to give it a go. Suzy is hoping to be accepted as a respite foster carer and saw this as an opportunity to gain experience of supporting children with special needs. She says the Club is fun but also relaxed and that the staff and other volunteers immediately made her feel very welcome.

The only male volunteer is 18-year old James Morrison from Killyleagh who has been volunteering with the Club for a year.

He joined when he was required to do a placement for a Health and Social Care ASD Level course but enjoyed it so much he stayed on. He said it is important for the boys to have a role model:

“The boys like it because they have someone older who’s happy to play with cars or planes with them. I like it because I get to be a bit of kid again but it’s really good fun, the kids are great and you get to build up a rapport with them.”

Parents and carers of the children who attend the Saturday Clubs are enthusiastic in their praise, according to Barnardo’s Play for All Manager Siobhan Stratton: “Parents and carers tell us how much their children look forward to coming. For many it is the only activity outside school they do and the only other opportunity to play with other children. The parents and carers say they have seen their child’s confidence grow while they can relax with peace of mind knowing the child is happy and well looked after in a safe environment.”

The Downpatrick Club is based at the Presbyterian Church, Fountain Street, and runs the second and fourth Saturday of every month from 2–4pm. The Saintfield Club is held at the Academy Primary School and runs the first and third Saturday of every month from 11– 1pm.

To discuss joining the Clubs and to ensure it is suitable for your child, contact Siobhan Stratton on 028 9065 8105 or email:

Siobhan can also be contacted for information on volunteering with Barnardo’s Play for All Saturday Clubs.  They particularly welcome interest from more mature volunteers and men as they are currently under-represented in the volunteer team.