Northern Ireland group getting more kids active through accessible and affordable summer camps

Children taking part in an Active Youth NI summer camp
-Credit: (Image: Submitted)

A community interest company in Northern Ireland is hoping to get more kids active through accessible and affordable summer camps. Active Youth NI was founded in early 2023 by Bangor residents Joni Rock and Lisa Tomalin, who have five young children and over 40 years experience in health and fitness between them.

The group runs programmes designed to improve children and young people's physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Recently, they ran a pilot programme for Ards and North Down Borough focused on young people who have been identified as least likely to participate or have fewer opportunities to participate in sports, including young people in deprived areas, rural areas, and those with disabilities.

Due to a successful first year in business, the team at Active Youth NI are able to subsidise their summer camps this year, to help create a more affordable option to ensure more kids are able to get active over the holidays.

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Kids will be kept active throughout their day at summer camp, with wake up and shake up, active games, team building, and mindful movement. They will also be involved in healthy eating sessions and crafting.

The camps will take place in a range of locations including Belfast, Bangor, and Lisburn throughout July and August, and are open to all children from P1 right through to Year 8. Camp runs from 9am to 2pm with early drop off and late pick up available too.

Speaking to Belfast Live, Joni Rock from Active Youth NI said their focus is on providing a fun way for kids to get active without the pressure of making a specific sports team.

Children taking part in an Active Youth NI summer camp
Children taking part in an Active Youth NI summer camp -Credit:Submitted

She said: "It's more about bringing the fun back into physical activity rather than it being the pressure of joining a sports team, and it's getting active without the pressure of not making the team. We always build in teaming building aspects to our programme.

"It's about getting everybody active and creating an accessible space for them to do that. Our camps are open to anybody. If there are young people with accessibility concerns or learning disabilities, physical disabilities, where we can, we'll accommodate.

"Where we can, we will more heavily weight staff so we can make the camps available to people who maybe wouldn't ordinarily get the opportunity to go to a mainstream camp."

One parent whose kids attended the summer camp last year said: "My children had the best three days! Honestly from one of them saying that she doesn’t like sports to joining in and having the best fun every day. The activities were great, games, food, crafts everything a brilliant mix and lovely coaches."

Children taking part in an Active Youth NI summer camp
Children taking part in an Active Youth NI summer camp -Credit:Submitted

The summer camps are available for £99 per week, with sibling discounts available. Joni said with rising costs in all parts of society at the minute, they wanted to provide a more affordable way for kids to get active this summer.

However, she highlighted that the cost still may be out of reach for many, and that they are hoping to reduce prices further in the future.

Joni said: "We just want to be able to provide an additional opportunity for people to have the chance to go to a camp if they can. We're still a young company, we're still small, but we'd like to be able to give back as much as we can when we can.

"We know that it is still unaffordable to some, and we're not blind to the fact that it's still a lot of money, but we can only unfortunately do so much so far. We will continue to do what we can, we'll part fund things where we can, and we will fully fund things, and we'll just do as much as we can."

Active Youth NI's summer camps run from July 1 until August 16 in a range of locations around Northern Ireland. They are encouraging families to get booked in 15 days before the camp is due to begin so they can schedule the right coaches for the right locations, with each session limited to around 100 kids.

You can find out more about the summer camps through the Active Youth NI website here.

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