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New hub for inclusive arts programme at Ennis school

THIS summer, national children’s arts and health charity Helium Arts will launch its first Creative Health Programme location in Clare at CBS Primary School in Ennis.

The charity’s first outpost in Clare will provide arts programming for children living with long-term medical conditions.

Helium Arts’ new Ennis location builds on the success of hubs in Cork, Limerick, and Galway which have served over 2,000 children living with long-term medical conditions since 2019, supporting their wellbeing, creativity, and ability to cope with their conditions.

Helium Arts is dedicated to empowering these children and teenagers through creativity and the arts by creating connection and belonging for young people who can feel lonely and defined by their health condition.

Led by local artist Ana Colomer, the workshops are a space for children to play, learn, and explore their creativity through hands-on activities.

As a parent whose child recently took part in a recent Helium Arts programme put it, “My son’s creativity was opened up in such a short time and I could see confidence in himself growing that he would love to do sessions on a regular basis.”

Until now, Helium Arts’ only Mid-West hub programme was located in Limerick city. Some children from County Clare who attend University Hospital Limerick will already be familiar with Helium Arts from the waiting room area of their outpatient appointments, where an artist helped transform idle and anxious moments through arts activities that foster creativity, playfulness and a sense of calm.

Thanks to the new location in Ennis, Helium Arts programmes will be more accessible this year to children and families challenged by long-term medical conditions in County Clare.

Clare Arts Officer, Siobhán Mulcahy, expressed her delight at the expansion of the Mid-West Hub to include Ennis this year.

“Joining Helium Arts’ Mid-West Hub strengthens our partnership with Arts Offices in Limerick and Tipperary,” she explained.

“This is a very special offering, one that compliments our work in the areas of Arts and Health, Education and Disability. Helium Arts Hub covers all three strands in a safe and supported environment for the young participants and we are delighted to see that Ana Colomer is the chosen artist to work with the children. She is so talented and has a wealth of creative experience.”

The first programme in Ennis will be a free art camp that will take place over three days from Tuesday, July 12 – Thursday, July 14. There will be a morning workshop for children ages 6-8 and an afternoon workshop for older children ages 9-12.

Ana said, “I can’t wait to deliver this camp in summer in Ennis. I have been following and admiring Helium’s work for many years before becoming an associate artist in 2020.

“After bringing some of the programmes to Galway and Limerick in the last year I am really excited to work in my own town, in a great location like CBS/

“No doubt I’ll meet new faces as well as children I might have worked with before through other schemes. We will have so much fun exploring creativity in a safe and inclusive setting.”

CBS Primary principal Dara Glynn said, “Artistic expression can be a great leveller, tapping into a person’s creativity and intelligence in ways that are often restricted by other subject areas.

“We are proud to support the wonderful, inclusive work of Helium Arts and the courageous, committed families who access the service.”

All Helium Arts Creative Health Hub programming for children is free of charge and wheelchair-accessible.

Medical support will be provided by a professional medic and volunteers are present to provide extra one-to-one support so that workshops can be safe and inclusive environments for children to have fun and make friends.

For some participants, the workshops are a rare opportunity to connect with peers with similar life experiences in addition to developing creative skills.
Helene Hugel, founder and CEO said, “Nurturing creativity through the arts is shown to improve coping skills, wellbeing, stress and anxiety, as well as building confidence, self-worth and a sense of hope.

“At Helium Arts, we are driven by the idea that healthcare will always be about more than treating the condition – it is about supporting people.

“And as we have seen throughout the pandemic, the arts play a vital role in supporting people, both their individual and their community wellbeing.”

To find out more about the programme, or to refer a child, please contact Helium Arts’ Family Liaison on hello@helium.ie or 083 010 3240.

Helium Arts is currently recruiting volunteers in the local area to assist lead artist Ana with the workshops and provide one-to-one support to children who may have additional needs. To apply, visit helium.ie/volunteer or email volunteer@helium.ie

About Jessica Quinn

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