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June O'Sullivan, LEYF CEO

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Sing a song of sixpence

The year is once again fast drawing to a close. Each one seems to go by faster and faster; and this one especially was twelve months at quick march time. Still, there does appear to be a modicum of calm about this Christmas and the full horrors of commercialisation does not feel quite so overpowering somehow, I am relieved to say.

Our nurseries start their Christmas preparations in December (and not a day before), and so the festivities are now very much in full swing. Dress rehearsals for festive plays are round every corner, and Father Christmas is very busy popping up all over the place.

Some nurseries have also visited local homes for the elderly to sing Christmas songs with them. I hope that from now on this will be a core feature of our Christmas plan at LEYF, since those who have done so say the shared delight across the generations was lovely to behold and very uplifting. Surely, that is what the spirit of Christmas is all about; a reaching out to others, a time to think about how we weave a better and more connected society. Ubuntu time.

This year we have also started working with War Child, a small international charity set up to support children devastated by war. Three LEYF staff used their annual leave to volunteer in Uganda (the safest of the War Child countries) where they helped to develop a play based teaching plan. Shocked by the real trauma suffered, but inspired by the warmth, resilience and capability of the children, we have promised to do more.

As a very small start, this Christmas we have asked staff and parents to donate the cost of one present to War Child. I hope it works. For more on this and to make a small donation yourself, I implore you to read more by clicking here.

The year ends with the promise of more economic challenges, public sector cuts and rising unemployment, accompanied by tax rises and inflation. It’s not a joyful proposition. Still, despite all of this, opportunities do exist and we continue to explore better ways of supporting more children.

One way for us to do this would be as more people consider the LEYF model; this way we may finally see our intergenerational centre ideas accepted and perhaps also be able to expand our apprenticeship programmes. We are certainly working very hard to get people to listen. We are making stronger partnerships with like-minded organisations, and our project to measure our impact is progressing well, held up only by the slow completion of questionnaires (some things never change).

When I was a child I was often told I was a bold girl, it’s an Irish term for defiance. Goethe said that boldness had genius, power and magic in it. To overcome the challenges of 2011, I strongly believe that we must concoct our own version of boldness – and maybe sprinkle it with a little LEYF magic from our children, parents, staff, apprentices and supporters. It’s likely to be quite a spirited brew!

So, with thanks to everyone that has listened, read, acted and supported us over the past year – not least of all our own staff – may I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.

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