A Drumaness child play therapist Laura Downey has pledged to do 28 cold water dips in February to raise funds for her favourite local charity.
‘Laffin’ Laura Downey (33) from Drumaness certainly has something to laugh about as she reaches the half-way point in her effort to raise funds for a local mental health charity writes Jim Masson.
During the month of February Laura has pledged to raise as much as she can for her favourite charity by taking a cold dip every day. And she already has £2330 donated so far for Life Changes Changes Lives (Pop Up Art), a therapeutic, mental health project in Downpatrick.
Laura who volunteers at Life Changes Change Lives in the Market Street unit in Downpatrick for the charity, said she was delighted with the response so far.
She said: “This is a very hard working charity which does a huge amount for people who really need support with mental health issues, all the more important now with the pandemic having its affect.
“They largely up-cycle furniture and other re-usable items and re-sell them, there is a counselling dimension if needed and other therapeutic activities.
“A few years ago I was very impressed with the efforts MYMY were making in Newcastle, another great local mental health charity, and one day when I was walking past the old base for LCCL (Pop Up Art back then), I was just drawn in literally off the street into the terrific buzz of the place. It was such a lively and positive environment and with lots of painted furniture around.
“So, I got involved back in 2018 and haven’t looked back since. I think Ailish and Manus Teague who manage the project with a dedicated board do a fantastic job, but often they are hard-pressed because of the shortage of funds. So I thought I’d help out.
“The activities at LCCL involve up-cycling along with baking, photography and photo competitions, a weekly ramble and puzzles. It is all very therapeutic.”
Speaking to Down News about her challenge, Laura said: “I decided to do a cold dip every day this February and I certainly picked the coldest month of the winter to do it. So far, I have used an old bath tub which is out in my back yard and filled it with water.
“And I’ve even dipped into the sea at Newcastle with the Harbour Swimmers. Also I’ve plunged into the waterfall at Drumaness which was really, really cold.”
At Queen’s University, Belfast, Laura studied modern history and social anthropology and was particularly interested in ethno-musicology.
“I’ve progressed in my career to becoming a play therapist now and I work with children in care settings. It is a very interesting and rewarding job.
“I’m very keen to develop new skill sets in working with children in nature settings. I’m actually doing a nature play certificate at the moment. I’ll also be doing forest training for children and will eventually be working with families. It is all a new and exciting area that is developing.
“Sadly, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have had to stop the group work but I hope to be getting back soon once the regulations slacken off.
“But the upside is that after a year of thinking deeply about what I want to really do, I now have a clear vision and I’d like to work with children in helping them connect with nature and working in special needs settings.”
Laura explained that she started taking dips in the sea over two years ago in Newcastle about three times a week where it is safe with the local Harbour Swimmers, and that she is now quite used to the cold.
“I even spent five minutes immersed in the snow and thought I was going to catch hypothermia. But mostly I spend about three minutes in the bath and a bit longer in the river which is a bit warmer.
“I’m half way there now and I’ll definitely complete my challenge of a cold dip every day in February. It certainly is very bracing!
“So thank you everyone so far that has donated and helped out. I’ve another two weeks to go so hopefully I can add more to the fund and even double up on the donations. People have just been so generous.”
So if you want to support ‘Laffin’ Laura who is helping a very important local mental health charity that covers the wider Downpatrick area, please log on the link below and make a donation: