Southill Afterschool’s Club providing a nurturing space for 30 years in the heart of the community. Richard Lynch, I Love Limerick, Niamh Galligan and Mary Kelly with kids from the After Schools Club. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick
Mary Kelly has dedicated the last 30 years to providing a safe and nurturing space to Southill’s young people at Southill Afterschool’s Club
Mary Kelly has dedicated the last 30 years to providing a nurturing space for Children in Southill inspired by the need for a safe space for her son to enjoy after school activities.
Kelly thinks back on the simple beginnings of the Southill Afterschool’s Club, which all started in a single-room with nothing but a worn-out sofa.
Determined to make a change, she took matters into her own hands, providing a space for kids to not only complete their homework but also engage in various activities, from holiday camps to daily sessions, ensuring a sense of belonging and learning.
The Southill Afterschool’s Club, an initiative by Kelly, caters to about 80 kids a day, fostering a community that extends beyond the academic realm. Her dedication is evident not only in the kids’ academic progress but also in the palpable joy they exude while participating in activities like building Lego structures.
When asked about her motivations, Mary told I Love Limerick, “30 years ago, my son was thrown out of school, and there was no place for my son, not just him but other kids.
“So I sat in my kitchen, had nothing, and decided we had to get something in place for the kids. So we got a house, there was one room in it, a dirty couch, we had nothing. So, kids were coming in every day of the week. We were doing activities with the kids and their homework. It’s something that’s very, very close to my heart.”
The impact the After School Club has on the students isn’t just seen at the club, but Mary explained parents and teachers have “given great feedback”, saying it gives a peace of mind knowing the kids are “attending the Homework Help, their homework is done. And the kids love it”.
The impact Mary’s vision has had on the youth of the area is incredible, but she tells I Love Limerick, that being part of the After School Club “gives me a sense of belonging in the area”.
Speaking about her own achievements, Mary explains she recently graduated from University of Limerick with a Level 7 CUL course saying she “actually saw then the work I was doing in the area”, saying, “We’re our own little family here. You know, we all look out for each other.”
In a moment of reflection, Mary paid tribute to “a big part” of the Afterschool’s Club, the late Noelle O’Malley who passed away last year is sorely missed by the group.
Mary said, “She was a big part of it. She gave an awful lot to us, Noelle. And there’s not a day we don’t think of her.”
Having been set up 30 years ago, the group is now seeing younger generations coming into the club, showing the appreciation the community has for the service.
Niamh Galligan, a member of the Afterschool’s Club for more than 16 years, said she began working there on a CE scheme and in that time qualified as a Special Needs Assistant (SNA), speaking about the opportunity she received, Niamh explained, “There are 40 adults in this community that owe their education to Mary Kelly.”
She even highlighted the generational impact the service has, telling I Love Limerick, “Our pedagogy is proven to work because we have people that are now working with us that were children in our care. One of the room leaders in my room, Megan, I had her as a small child. I’ve had all her siblings, and now I’ve her nieces and nephews. So, we’ve gone through families.”
Niamh said with pride about the service and its founder, “it’s generational so we’re on to the third generation here thanks to Mary Kelly.”