Belfast Telegraph

Laurence White: What makes Paddy and Pudsey a winning pair

Most people see Children In Need as a chance to let their hair down. But Paddy Sloan, head of the charity in Northern Ireland, tells Laurence White of the serious side to it's work

Tonight Paddy Sloan will be supervising the army of volunteers manning the telephones and taking donations during BBC Northern Ireland's marathon Children in Need telethon.

For Paddy it will be her first experience of the crazy, fun-filled live seven-hour show which annually raises millions of pounds for disadvantaged children. It was only in June that she took up the post of National Head for BBC Children in Need in the province. However, tonight is just a fun introduction to the job. Her real work comes in the months ahead when she heads the team which will decide which projects in the province to fund.

Relatively speaking, Northern Ireland does well out of the charity fund-raising. Last year the province raised just over £400,000 during Children in Need but dispensed grants totalling almost £2.5m to 253 projects. The charity nationally raised £33m.

Paddy brings a wealth of experience to the job. For much of her working life from the late 1970s she has been involved in grant-making, first with a local authority, then the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, followed by the NI Voluntary Trust and through the Making Belfast Work urban regeneration organisation, working in west Belfast.

Latterly, from 1999 to 2006 she was chief executive of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

She says: "I have had a lot of experience in grant giving and in developing partnership with community based organisations. That experience, I hope, will stand me in good stead in the coming months.

"I am very mindful that as part of the Children In Need team I am spending money that the public raises. We simply sign the cheques. It is the public through their many varied activities who provide us with the funds".

She is also acutely aware from past experience of the level of deprivation in Northern Ireland. "One in three children here are still living in poverty which means there is a great deal of need to be met.

" Our aim is to assist children and those who assist them. These are children who suffer some form of disadvantage – illness, abuse, disability, poverty, deprivation, behavioural problems."

Grants from Children in Need are given out in two tranches – first in April and then in August. Demand for aid is high, with applications outscoring grants by a ratio of roughly three to one. The size of awards vary enormously, from £200/£300 for say a television or play equipment for a youth club to more than £100,000 to fund staff for projects that work with disadvantaged street kids in inner cities.

One such grant was the £94,000 given to the Church of the Holy Name to develop a centre to work with young people in the Greenisland area. The grant is for a three-year period to maximise its impact.

The range of projects assisted is as varied as the reasons for disadvantage and include:

÷Holidays for children with disabilities or illnesses and their young carers.

÷Arts and music workshops.

÷Toys and sensory equipment for nurseries.

÷Counselling for bereaved young people or those who have self harmed or for the relatives of those who committed suicide.

Paddy pays tribute to the public for their enduring interest in the Children In Need charity. "There is an incredible level of interest. This year throughout the UK we have sent out 200,000 fund raising packs. I believe the public continues to support us so strongly because they know that every penny raised is spend on projects which help disadvantaged children."

The line-up of entertainment at Broadcasting House in Northern Ireland during the live broadcast sees the return of chart-topping boy band McFly; tenor Alfie Boe, who took part in the local BBC Proms in the Park earlier this year; pop star Kate Nash and Northern Ireland's own star vocalist, Peter Corry.

Former Coronation Street hate figure, Richard Hillman, aka actor Brian Capron, will be cooking up a special meal in a local version of Hells Kitchen for which the brave diners will be paying a handsome sum. But the real stars of the show continue to be the public who dig deep for Children In Need.

Helping young people build confidence

Gráinne McCarry talks to two young people about how they are benefitting from Children In Need

The Off The Streets Initiative is based in Londonderry. Fionnula Mellon (16) is a fifth year student at St Cecilia's Secondary School and a member of the Initiative. She says:

One night I was hanging around the street on the Galliagh Estate with my friends and we were asked by members of the Off The Streets Initiative if we want and to take part in some of their events such as outdoor pursuits like hill walking and canoeing. It would give us something to do and stop us from getting into trouble.

There is nothing for young people to do in the Galliagh area so they hang out on the street corners out of boredom.

By getting involved in the initiative, young people are doing something productive, learning new skills and experiences and staying out of trouble. I used to meet my friends and sit on the street corner and watch the boys play football out of pure boredom - there was nothing else for us to do. So far I've climbed, got my grade one in canoeing and climbed Mount Errigal in Donegal.

We learned survival skills as well, how to cook outdoors, what to do if we ever got lost and so on. The Initiative would like to help as many young people as possible but it has limited facilities and there is only so much they can do. It operates from a top floor flat on the estate.

There are so many derelict buildings not in use that could be transformed into better things like a youth club.

I took part in workshops against prejudice, on understanding the media. It's built up my confidence and I'm not as nervous about talking to strangers as I used to be.

Now, I can sit in a room full of people and put my point across. I feel I still have to grow a bit more and have a lot more learning to do, but it's made me think more about my future. A lot of people have said that I would be good at youth work so maybe that's something I'll look into.

Nathan Doak (10), from east Belfast, attends the Mountpottinger After School Club on Mondays and Thursdays. Nathan says:

I started going to the club when I was in P3. My friend told me about it and I thought it sounded like it would be good fun. On Mondays, when we've got our homework done we play board games like Pictionary, type or do art on the computer or arts and crafts, then Thursday is for sports. Before I started going to the club I didn't like doing my homework - or else I wouldn't have done it at all. Now I don't have to be told to get my books out. My favourite subject is English.

I get on better with my friends now. If I get cross I have to go outside to cool down and then come in and say sorry. I know how to share and be kind. I help Karis, the project worker, whenever she asks me to. When I come home from the club I get my dinner, play for a while and then go to bed. If I didn't have the club I wouldn't have anything to do except play on the streets.

Belfast Telegraph


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