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Garden of Solace opens at Holy Cross PS, Atticall

A SENSORY garden, which opened at Holy Cross Primary School in Atticall yesterday, is to offer a “quiet place” for pupils and others wishing to use it.

The idea for the ‘Garden of Solace’, which has been funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Asda, was from a discussion by the Friends of Holy Cross Primary School parents group and the primary seven pupils from school year 2017/18.

The installation of this sensory garden has become a pivotal part of their ‘Let’s talk about it’ campaign which was launched on World Mental Health Day in October 2018.

Sonia Ferris, Chairperson of Friends of Holy Cross PS Atticall, said: “We had this plot of land in the school and thought it would be a great idea to try and create something beautiful which could also benefit the students’ mental health.

“Our campaign focussed on the issue of emotional, mental health and well-being of pupils, parents, teachers and the wider community.”

She added that the outdoor sensory garden was a “key part of this process for such support.”

During the official opening ceremony, teachers, pupils and parents welcomed guest speaker, Koulla Yiasouma, Commissioner of Children and Young People for the Northern Ireland, who spoke to those in attendance.

Interim acting principal of the school, Mrs Siobhan Morrow, also spoke to those at the official opening, congratulating those who made the garden a reality.

Mrs Charlene Sloan, School Principal, said: “the garden is a credit to all those who worked tirelessly in our friends committee to raise funds, organise the works and give up their time to make this project a reality for the benefit of our children and the wider Atticall community. I am extremely proud to see it come to fruition.

“The garden will not only cater for children with additional needs but will also benefit the holistic development of each child, targeting emotional health and well-being, building self-esteem and confidence, which is so very necessary to equip our children to face the challenges of today’s world.”

Sonia explained that the garden will hopefully also be used by others within the community, including members of Mourne Stimulus Day Centre, whose Makaton choir provided a musical performance on the official opening ceremony yesterday.

“The members of Mourne Stimulus will be helping the pupils to pot plants and take care of the garden once every season, about four times a year” explained Sonia.

“We want this garden to be used by the community, provided they are respectable of the school grounds, because it really is just a beautiful setting.

“The ethos of the Friends of Holy Cross focuses very much on developing partnerships with our community, reducing rural isolation and marginalisation whilst promoting inclusion and accessibility for all,” she said.

“I’d just like to thank everyone in the school community, the Board of Governors, local businesses and the rest of the committee members who helped to make this garden a reality.”

If any local community groups would like to visit or experience the sensory garden you can contact interim acting principal Mrs Siobhan Morrow at the school office on (028) 417 63743.

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