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Conway Mill Trust has received word from Danny Cassidy, Project Manager for Altram, a community-based regional support group for Irish language early years programs and family support services in Northern Ireland, that Altram lost funding, severely affecting Altram’s certified Irish-medium early years immersion education training program.

Altram was founded in 1990 by local Irish-medium preschools in Armagh, Belfast, Derry and Newry. It currently provides tutor/worker certification and a wide range of training materials and services benefiting families from both sides of the community. Altram undertook development of its Irish-medium early years tutor training program and dedicated training centre in 2008 in partnership with Comhairle na Gaelscaiochta, the organization specifically responsible for the Irish-medium early years sector in Northern Ireland, North West Regional College, Ultach Trust, a Belfast-based charity, and the University of Ulster. The centre and training course became fully operational in September 2009 and just recently certified its first class of tutors/workers. Danny writes, “Despite all our hard work to establish the training centre, we are now at the stage where we have to close it by July as we have no money to maintain the rent on it of £450. This, to say the least, is heartbreaking for all involved in the project. All the money invested into the centre will have been for nothing and is a terrible waste of resources.”

Danny was lobbying the local politicians for help in averting this crisis; and in late-breaking news on Saturday June 19, Danny writes, “We have managed to secure our core staffing and programme costs until December 2010. These costs include salaries, programme costs including heat & light, rent costs for our office but not for our training facility. The current situation in relation to rent for the training unit still stands. Ironically, I have managed to secure £1000 towards training courses for the centre from the Western Childcare Partnership, but they do not fund rental costs. We just completed the first and pilot course of our University of Ulster accredited Certificate in Immersion Education: Early Years. It has been a great success with 10 out of 12 candidates passing, with the remainder having to do resits. Hopefully, they will graduate in December of this year which will be a great day for the Irish-medium sector. All this good news seems to be ridiculous when, as it presently stands, we may be forced to close down an excellent facility for lack of rent.”

If you would like to help Altram keep its centre open, send your tax-deductible contribution to Conway Mill Trust Inc., PO Box 101529, Pittsburgh, PA 15237. Mark your check or money order “Altram,” and 100% of your contribution will be sent to them. Or, click the “DONATE” button top right to contribute through PayPal.

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