NSPCC Northern Ireland’s Schools Co-ordinator, Janice Blakely, has spoken of her huge affection for Fermanagh as she calls on local people to volunteer with the charity to help children in their own community stay safe. 

Janice, 54, has worked with NSPCC Northern Ireland for 22 years. She is as determined today as the day she started to protect children and keep them safe from all kinds of abuse.

The Schools Co-ordinator lives in Seskinore and considers herself very fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful countryside and scenery.

Janice said: “I really value being able to get out and explore my local area – and especially in these summer months.

“At the weekend, my favourite way of relaxing is to put my Collie and Miniature Schnauzer into the car and take them off to the lakes.

“We have a long walk and then we just absorb the peace and quiet around us.”

She said if the weather’s not so good, she will put on her raincoat and the dogs put on theirs too and they all head off to Castle Archdale.

“Honestly, it’s just the most wonderful way to relax! In the winter, I go to yoga classes on the shores of Lough Erne and enjoy the journey through the countryside on the way.

“I love my job but, like most people, I need to unwind after work and I feel very lucky to live in an area where there are so many beautiful places to explore.

“Often, I bump into friends when I’m out and about on my walks. I know I’m biased, but the fact that the people are so friendly here is yet another reason I love living in this neck of the woods!”

Janice manages a team of volunteers in NSPCC’s Northern Ireland’s Speak Out Stay Safe service (SOSS), which has been delivered throughout Northern Ireland for more than ten years.

Through virtual assemblies and in-person workshops, delivered by trained volunteers, the SOSS service covers topics such as bullying and abuse – without using any scary words or adult language.

It has been designed to help primary school-aged children understand how to recognise abuse in all its forms.

The service helps them understand that abuse is never a child’s fault, that they have the right to be safe, and how to get help from safe adults and the NSPCC’s Childline service.

Local volunteers are key when it comes to providing the in-person workshops in primary schools.

Janice explains why she is appealing to local people to consider volunteering with the charity to deliver the assemblies in primary schools in Fermanagh.

“At NSPCC Northern Ireland, we strive to do all we can to keep children safe and we believe that helping children understand what abuse is, and where they can turn for help, is an essential part of that.

“Unfortunately, many children might not be aware that they are experiencing abuse, and some others might be scared about speaking out, for fear of repercussions.

“Last year, we delivered our online Speak Out Stay Safe programmes to more than 45,000 children in 189 schools across Northern Ireland, but we want to reach all primary school children in Northern Ireland.


“That’s why I’m asking the people of Fermanagh to help us protect local children from abuse by volunteering to go into their local primary schools and deliver this brilliant programme.”

With the help of speech bubble mascot ‘Buddy’, volunteers visit primary schools and deliver fun and engaging child-friendly and age-appropriate workshops to help pupils understand and identify the different types of hurt and abuse, and how to speak out about any issues, so that they can get help if they need it.

The workshops cover these difficult subjects and help children identify a safe adult they can talk to, if they are ever worried about themselves or a friend.

Talking of the volunteers in Northern Ireland, Janice says: “Our volunteers are all ages and from widely differing backgrounds.

“You don’t have to have had previous experience working with children but we do ask that you are over 16, have good communication skills, and that you are passionate about children’s rights and keeping them safe from harm.

“We have an amazing group of volunteers and many of them have told me that it feels like being part of a family.

“They work in pairs and often forge great friendships. There is also ongoing training and the opportunity to meet other volunteers from across Northern Ireland.

“NSPCC Northern Ireland provides full training and we always aim to work around people’s availability and location.

“We do ask that volunteers commit to at least two workshops a month in schools that are convenient to them. The workshops mostly take place in the mornings and last around an hour.

“We know they can have a real impact, because after some sessions, children speak up and disclose abuse – often for the first time.

“At the moment, we are running online information sessions where you can hear about the work of a SOSS volunteer, the training and support on offer and we can answer any questions or queries.

“There’s absolutely no obligation to join the service, but we encourage anyone who is interested to join a session and find out more.”

To see a full description of the role of a volunteer and details of virtual volunteer information meetings, see the ‘Volunteers’ section at the NSPCC site.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to contact a local representative for information, email Janice at Janice.porter@nspcc.org.uk.

You may have noticed our front page looks a little different today, with a beachball balancing on the masthead.

The ball is part of our proud partnership with the NSPCC and is the logo for Childhood Day – the charity’s flagship fundraising event – which takes place tomorrow (Friday, June 7).

The NSPCC is encouraging communities, schools and businesses to come together with sponsored games and events and play their part in helping children have safe and happy childhoods.

Whether you support Childhood Day by donating, volunteering at a collection point, or taking on the Childhood Day Mile, all funds raised will help the NSPCC deliver vital services, such as Childline, which is available around the clock to support young people whenever they need it.