Lady Eames helped create a small piece of history in Londonderry on Friday afternoon when she opened the Foyle Child Contact Centre’s new premises in Londonderry – making it the first child contact centre in Northern Ireland to have sole use of its own premises.
The new facility, in the Diamond, will provide a warm, welcoming environment in which children can spend quality time with a parent or other family member with whom they are not living.
Foyle Child Contact Centre was set up in 2005 – with grant support from Mothers’ Union and the Church of Ireland Board of Social Responsibility – to meet the need for a safe, welcoming, neutral, child-centred facility. Since then it has been supported, too, by the Western Health and Social Care Trust. In the last 13 years, the centre has facilitated contact for 777 families and almost 2,000 children in the Salvation Army’s premises at John Street. Speaking at today’s opening, the chairperson of the Foyle CCC board, Jean Thompson, said the organisation was indebted to the Salvation Army for all it had done for the centre.
Foyle CCC is delighted to have acquired its own new, neutral, secluded premises in the city centre, making it the first child contact centre in Northern Ireland to have sole use of its own leased premises.
The centre will be managed by coordinator, Liz McCorkell, with the support of 40 volunteers and the centre’s board of management. The charity offers seven contact sessions per week, including one in Strabane and one in Limavady, and the service would be unable to function without the help and dedication of its volunteers.
Foyle CCC is the first group in Northern Ireland to have been accredited under the new Northern Ireland Network of Child Contact Centres scheme. In August 2018, the centre received the Queens Award for Voluntary Service – regarded as the MBE for voluntary groups – in recognition of the high quality of service it offered.
Several dozen people attended the lunchtime launch in the Diamond. Lady Eames – a long-time advisor to the NI Child Contact Centre – was assisted at the official opening by one of the children who attend Foyle CCC. Also in attendance were the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor John Boyle, representatives of the judiciary and the acting Chairman of the Western Trust, Niall Birthistle.
Lady Eames told the gathering that volunteers and volunteering were at the heart of child contact centres in Northern Ireland, and that they were owed a great debt by the community at large for the way in which they were prepared to put their head above the parapet and give of their time.
“This centre is a tremendous asset for this city and the wider area,” Lady Eames said. “None of us knows when we will need to avail of a service such as this. None of us knows the difficulties that will come. Any of us can hit a point of crisis at any particular time in our lives, and we turn to each other.
“So, this is a milestone for the contact centre, it’s a milestone for its leadership, it’s a milestone for its volunteers and all who’ve been involved, and it’s a milestone for this city which is very, very close to my heart.”