THE Tiny Toons playgroup is celebrating a successful twenty years at Bishopscourt.
The long haul to develop a top class facility began with the efforts of a brave few and determined mothers who wanted more for their children.
Patricia Curran, Chairman and founder member, said: “We started off on the 18th April 1994 with just three children. Basically a few local mums got together as there was nowhere for the children to go in those days.
“We started fundraising and got some funds together then eventually rented an empty building that was formally used in RAF Bishopscourt. It was in a very poor state but we fixed it up as best we could and applied for grants.
“It was all quite a struggle. Now we take on up to 24 children and also have funded places. We are very well established with three staff. We live in a rural area and services such as these are very important. We have had excellent support from our local politicians and businesses and really Tiny Toons has been a success story. We are all very proud of it.
“Early years education is very important. It has given the children a start in life they would otherwise may not have had.We are looking forward to our next twenty years.
“Mums in areas such as ours often need to get out and work. They are under less pressure now and can find a few hours to get out and find a part-time or full-time job. Some may not be able to pay child care costs so we fulfill an important role in our community in minding their children.”
Nuala Mulholland, Tiny Toons Leader in Charge, also explained that the playgroup was open from Monday to Friday weekly. She said:”Eventually the committee managed to buy this premises and from there we further upgraded the facility with support from early years and other grants. Receiving core funding for workers too was crucial and we then took on another two staff.
“Our staff are fully qualified and we all love working with the children here. We are well supported by Children in Need and Lloyds TSB and the National Lotteries Awards For All. Our catchment area is around Ballyhornan and Bishopscourt, but we take in children from as far away as Kilclief and Downpatrick. We are very flexible.
“The Tiny Toons premises is very bright and cheerful and we have quite a lot of equipment but that does need to be replenished through time. We do what we can to raise funds through various activities such as our recent (Teddy) Bear Hunt in Castle Ward. Every penny helps us on our way to running a successful play group.”