A nurse, who set up a specialist day care nursery for children with complex health needs, has been forced to close the centre due to lack of funding.
Kathryn Brown sold her house and ploughed £30k of her own money into setting up Nana G Day Care so that sick children could have a chance to attend nursery.
Though she has had to close, she is hoping to raise enough money to reopen the centre via crowd-funding.
For the past two years the centre has been fondly caring for some of the most vulnerable children in our locality, many with severe and complex needs.
Kathryn (37) explained that the children, aged between new borns and three years old, have a variety of issues including neo-natal, children born prematurely, some in need of intubation, suction or oxygen and others with epilepsy.
She said she has cared for children in child protection who have suffered severe injuries including Shaken Baby Syndrome - some paralysed.
“They come to the nursery to be like every other little child and they get the proper expert care,” said Kathryn.
“It is a place for the children to go before they go to pre-school and nursery at the likes of Ceara,” she said.
Kathryn said she set up the day care centre shortly after her mum Geri passed away with cancer and why it is called Nana G’s.
Kathryn, who was a paediatric nurse at Craigavon Hospital for 13 years, said there is no other facility like it in Northern Ireland and she believes these children should be able to attend.
“It has helped them so much and their parents, most of whom have been able to return to work as they know their child is being looked after,” she said.
Kathryn said that up until they closed they were only able to look after 12 children and had a registered nurse, a paediatric nurse, and two trained nursery assistants.
“I sold my house to create this day centre and went to Invest NI who helped me with a business plan. I have been renting the premises in Annagh Business Centre for two years now.”
She explained that most nurseries have around 80 children but she was only allowed 12.
“Our families are amazing. About 80% of them had been unemployed parents but because of the day care at least 60% have been able to get back to work. That has benefitted them and the local economy,” she said, adding that they had 15 really sick babies on the waiting list.
Praising her late mum for pushing her on and the enormous support from her dad Ken, she said: “I don’t take a wage, I just pay the staff wages. I just love to see those little ones thrive.”
Kathryn said she tried to find new suitable premises as she has been inundated with requests for help but the deal fell through.
“All I want is to help those wee ones, some just out of the ICU in the Royal, some who are life-limited children who will never be able to get to nursery otherwise.
“I had a little graduation ceremony and it was so emotional as for some of them it will be their only graduation.
“They are all wee miracles and I just want to do what I can for those kids.”
She said she had tried to get funding from the Southern Health Trust but nothing happened.
And she said she has had requests from social workers to expand to offer to look after children after school and to pick children up from Ceara but even with the support of volunteers she said she was not entitled to funding.
Kathryn said she needed a £4k specialist heating system to help with children suffering traumatic brain injury and who had temperature control issues.
She also brought in able bodied children who interacted brilliantly with those with special needs and helped out. “They used to say, so and so’s pump is bleeping,” she said with a kindly laugh.
Kathryn explained that the interaction also led to speech improvements in the special children.
“I don’t want to sound like a beggar but I really want to get this off the ground. The parents, even those struggling financially, have offered to help.”
Kathryn is going to give it one last chance.
“We had an amazing two years and due to a massive demand, we needed to amend our current premises. Child care settings need approvals and a lot of discussions with other bodies etc! That’s just the law and no fault of anyone.
“I decided we had to close due to lack of finance and unsuitable premises. That’s all it was.
“However, I have decided to give it one last chance as I feel absolutely deflated that I have left these kids behind.
“I do not and never had ANY funding from the Trust or outside bodies! I 100% funded Nana G’s alone and yes it was a paid service, but the overheads for being allowed even a small amount of sick kids are huge.
“So the stubborn part of me feels massively uneasy to quit. Our target is pretty big and believe me if I could do any more financially, I would.
“Our nursery is still sitting there and I can only dream we can get it up and going and fund our new rooms.”
And so Kathryn has set up a Go Fund Me page hoping that the public and local businesses can help her and the children get their day care facilities up and running again.
If you wish to help visit https://www.gofundme.com/help-us-to-re-open