Local businesswoman launches rural daycare facility thanks to Rural Business Investment Scheme

LOCAL entrepreneur, Jayne Mitchell, now has 80 children on the books at Sion Mills based Tiny Tots Daycare with 14 full and part-time staff thanks to a £50,000 grant funding from the Derry and Strabane Rural Partnership.

This project was part funded under Priority 6 (LEADER) of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Union’.

With the help of the Rural Business Investment Scheme, Jayne renovated a property to create a state-of-the-art daycare facility which offers wrap-around care and learning in a safe and nurturing environment, all in an area where daycare demand was far outstripping supply.

The property has undergone an extension at the rear and now offers a baby room, toddler room, pre-school room and out-of-school room, along with renovated kitchen facilities, a new outdoor play area and a sensory garden. Underfloor heating has been installed and all the windows have been replaced.

From around 15 children when the facility was launched, there are now around 80 children on the books.

Jayne was working as a special needs classroom assistant when she became aware of the lack of daycare facilities for parents living in the rural Victoria Bridge and Sion Mills areas.

She decided to take a career break from her job and worked as a childminder as she researched the market for a daycare facility.

Jayne said: “There is very little daycares in the rural areas of Victoria Bridge and Sion Mills, which meant that parents were having to travel to Castlederg and Strabane to take their children to daycare, often in very heavy traffic.

“There were even parents working in Omagh who were having to take their children to daycare there. I was also finding that a lot of the places in Strabane and Castlederg were full up and had no places available.”

While working as a childminder, Jayne searched for a property to convert into a daycare facility and eventually found a house in Sion Mills that was just right.

She wanted to combine a home-like feel with state-of-the art-facilities, and has invested a total of £250,000 in the renovation of the property, of which £50,000 came from the Rural Business Investment Scheme.

“We had to renovate the whole house and add on two extra rooms. The extension was needed to create a staff room, sleeping room and baby room, and we have new kitchens which have been fully kitted out. We intend to complete a sensory garden that includes a sensory path, musical drums and chimes, as well as planters for children to explore gardening.” Jayne says.

“At Tiny Tots Daycare, we offer a wrap-around service for children in a safe and nurturing environment where children can learn and grow. It means they can come here as a baby and stay right up until school age. Then we can collect them from school for the out-of-school service.”

The facility offers a breakfast club in the mornings and employs fully qualified and experienced staff to look after the children.

When the facility first opened, only one baby was cared for in the baby room and just two years later there are 22 on the books, said Jayne.

“I am delighted that numbers are constantly continuing to grow,” she says. “Without the funding from the Rural Business Investment Scheme, we wouldn’t have been able to set up this business. It means we have been able to create a lot of jobs in a rural area. I now employ 14 full and part time staff.”

The LEADER Fund is administered by Derry City and Strabane District Council on behalf of Derry and Strabane Rural Partnership.

For more information visit: www.derrystrabane.com/RBIS

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