A voluntary childcare organisation has helped transform the lives of some of its users.
Laura Magill, 36, achieved a first class honours degree and became a paediatric nurse after her four children attended pre and after-school at the Southcity Resource and Development Centre in south Belfast.
Two of her children have forms of autism and received one-to-one support. One was diagnosed following an intervention from a worker at the voluntary organisation.
She said: “It gave me everything. I was unemployed and had the four kids, did not know what to do. I was 30 and was, like, goodness, what am I going to do, and here (the resource centre) helped me go back into education.”
She graduated 15 months ago and works in one of the local hospitals.
“It was a big achievement for me to get that far.
“Without this facility I would never have went back into education, I would not have been able to afford it.”
The centre gave her money towards books and helped her through the education process.
Bob Stoker is the development manager at the centre.
“I could not have done it without him,” Ms Magill said.
“It has put me in the lovely position where my kids have seen me go through education and they are proud, ‘if mummy can do it, I can do it’, and where we are from there is not much opportunity.
“A lot of people around here would not have gotten to university but facilities like this help you do that.”
Southcity supported her eldest daughter, who has Asperger’s, in sitting the Association for Quality Education transfer test, despite her challenges with communicating.
The organisation paid for past papers to help her study for the AQE and she is now attending Methodist College in south Belfast.
Ms Magill added: “It is a big achievement considering she does have a lot of difficulties but she got there and I think it is through Southcity and pre-school/after-school that she did get there.”
Southcity Resource and Development Centre was founded in 1993 to combat the social and economic problems of south Belfast.
It operates a playgroup, lunch club, access training, open learning centre, facilities for the elderly, a local history project and Citizens Advice from premises on Donegall Road, Roden Street and Malden Street.
It delivers a pre-school for children aged two years and 10 months upwards and an after-school project.
Debt advice is also delivered.
Glenda Davies from the Sandy Row Community Forum is concerned about the future and said she wanted to work with the Department for Communities to develop a more outcome-focused programme.
“We want the time to be able to do that, give us the two years until the next comprehensive funding round and we will work with you.
“We accept that there needs to be rationalisation and there is duplication of services. We are trying to move forward in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the city and we need the time.
“We have cross-party support in this matter, the only thing we need here is a minister to take the local decision on the issue.”