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Change for good of the community

THE Dublin Bus Community Support Programme (CSP), which has helped hundreds of groups and thousands of people across the Greater Dublin area, is now in its seventh year.

Grants of €5,000, €2,000 and €1,000 are awarded under different categories: children, sport, people with disabilities, older people, environment and local community, and education, in alcohol and drugs awareness, literacy and health. We spoke to two nominees from this year about how they hope to use the grant in their community -- the value of which won't be revealed until the awards lunch tomorrow.

Darndale Belcamp Childcare

Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service is one of the nominees for a Dublin Bus CSP grant this year. Kelda Barnes, centre manager, explains how they will use the money.

"We are the largest community childcare centre in the country and have about 250 children daily who range in age from four weeks to 12 years old. There is a fabulous community spirit here, but it is a poverty-stricken area; crime, unemployment, drugs and alcohol misuse are big issues and part of everyday life.

"The children are generally from the local community or the Traveller community and most of their parents are in employment, training or school. Children whose parents might be going through rehab are also fed in through the HSE. There are children from all different backgrounds; a child is a child, no matter what -- the children are separated by age and that's all. We work on the High Scope method, which is a play-based approach.

"Children with disabilities should be cared for within their community and they have the right to be. Those children attend the centre at the same time as the others and occupational therapists and speech therapists from St Michael's House or the CRC come out to see the children and give us advice.

"Last year, we developed a new multi-sensory room with a tree house, sand and water play area, a light and sensory area and a tent. About 10pc of the children have special needs but other children who have something going on in their lives at home can also use the area for chill-out time.

"Some of these children might not have a bed to sleep on at home and have to wait until an armchair becomes available before they get to rest.

"A couple of years ago, 11 of our children lost a parent to suicide within a year, which was a big issue. Some of our children, who are as young as six years old, know how to rob cars, and they can show you! The majority of the families are really hardworking, but the things that some of the children have heard about and witnessed are shocking.

"We were delighted when we heard that we got the Dublin Bus CSP grant. Sadly, with Government cuts, it's been even harder this year. We will be using the Dublin Bus money to buy more equipment for the multi- sensory room. We will also be getting equipment for the other rooms, such as a storage unit, cutlery and jigsaws that show pictures of children in wheelchairs. When the Traveller children started coming a few years ago, we put up pictures of caravans; this is so that the children know that this is normal, and likewise, with the jigsaws, that wheelchairs are normal. If you can get this across when the children are young, it can prevent prejudice.

"This is a remarkable place to work; you're making a difference by showing the children that they are children of worth."

Bellarose Foundation

The Bellarose Foundation is one of the nominees for a Dublin Bus CSP Grant this year. Dermot McGuckin, who runs the foundation with his wife, explains how they will use the money: "I run a cleaning business with my wife called Maud's Merry Maids, which we started in 2008.

"The Bellarose Foundation came out of a conversation with a potential customer in 2009; she was recovering from cancer and called us to see how much our service would be. When we told her, she said she couldn't afford it and she hung up.

We decided that we needed to do something for women recovering from cancer. My mother died of cancer in St Luke's Hospital when I was 10, so we named it after her: Ann Bella McGuckin. The 'Rose' part of the name is the feeling that our cleaners leave after they have left.

"My wife comes from Zimbabwe and she has seen a lot of turmoil in Zimbabwe under the Mugabe regime. We met after I put an ad in the Herald looking for tenants for my house. Maud and her friend moved in and we ended up getting married in 2004, so it's all the Herald's fault!

"The service works when we get a referral from St Luke's Hospital, The Irish Cancer Society or the Marie Keating Foundation. We look after patients who have just got out of hospital. We can provide a regular cleaning service for them for six to eight weeks at no cost.

"The patients we meet are fantastic. Many of them don't have much time left. They really appreciate our service and it's very humbling to be able to give something back. We have provided a free-clean service for about 100 people so far.

"We don't get a great deal of funding but we try to keep costs down and also hold fundraising events.

"We applied for the Dublin Bus grant because our vision is to grow a nationwide foundation and we wanted help to do this. We are starting by developing our website. And as we grow, it's great to be recognised in such a way."