Childminder finalist 'Jojo' who just loves her job

Published: 1 Nov 2012 13:000 comments

BELLANALECK childminder, Joanne Keys will learn next Tuesday whether she has been awarded the title of Northern Ireland's Childminder of the Year.

Joanne Keys, (front centre), Childminder of the Year nominee with from left, Megan Keys, Tommy Watson, Harry Elliott, Molly Watson and Grace Keys; standing at back, Jenny and Sam Elliott.<<

Nominated by mum of two, Jenny Elliott from Florencecourt, she has only been childminding for three years now.

But she couldn't be happier with her new chosen career path.

"I have no idea what my chances are of winning next week but if I do it would just be a bonus," she insisted, "I love my job so much and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be able to work at home with their own children as well."

Joanne has three children of her own aged between 10 and 15 years of age and looks after five other children.

"My two girls are really into looking after the children," she said, "They are off on their Halloween holidays so they are helping me out this week.

"It is a happy wee household when we are all here. Everything has just fallen into place.

"I'm in a great routine."

Despite her contentment, Joanne had never considered childminding as a career until a couple of years ago.

"I just wanted a fresh start," she said, "I wanted to be able to work at home and thought childminding would be ideal.

"So on August 29 I left work and began childminding on September 1 -- I have never looked back since."

Joanne has been looking after Jenny's two children, Harry (4) and Sam (2) for over a year now.

"I have never had that feeling 'I don't want to work today'," said Joanne, "The way I see it, I am so lucky that I have two families -- my own three kids and then the children I look after -- my extended family."

Joanne is one of six finalists in the Childminding Association's annual awards.

She and the other hopefuls will be interviewed by a panel of judges in Belfast's Opera House next Tuesday before this year's winner is revealed.

Her nominator, Jenny says Joanne goes far beyond the call of duty, ensuring that not one birthday goes by uncelebrated.

"Joanne is just fantastic. She is so good with the children and the parents as well. The kids are so happy and content with her which in turn makes me feel happy to go off to work and leave them in her care. She has birthday parties for them, she's having a Halloween party for them this week and at Christmas she always does special things with them as well. The children really love her -- they call her JoJo.

"When I was nominating her I had to write 100 words saying why she deserved to be put through -- it was actually hard to get it into just 100 words. I could have written so much more about her! We would be lost without her," said Jenny.

But Joanne insists that she enjoys it all just as much as the children do.

"Birthdays are important -- every birthday is a milestone especially in a child's life -- any old excuse to get the music blaring and have some sweets and cake and crisps!

"I know I am very lucky to have such wonderful kids and parents and for Jenny to nominate me and be thought of so highly is praise enough for me," she added.

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