A smile flashes across the face of 11 year-old Jack Burn.
Jack completed the Safe, Wellbeing, Exercise, Eating, Together (S.W.E.E.T.) Project with his mother, Ann, two weeks ago - he’s missing it already.
“I absolutely loved the SWEET project,” said Jack from Malin Gardens in Creggan. “It was great spending time with my mum - we all had a really good time.”
The SWEET Project aims to improve the physical health, diet and nutrition and mental health of all of the families involved.
The project is managed and co-ordinated by George McGowan (Project Co-ordinator) and Daniel Quigley (Physical Activities Officer) in the Creggan Healthy Living Centre.
The most recent batch of graduates completed the SWEET Project two weeks ago but George and Daniel are looking for more recruits.
“It’s running as a pilot project in Creggan, the Waterside and in Omagh for the next two years,” explains George.
“It’s a fantastic project and although we’ve only the first 12 week term over us, the results have been amazing.
“One of the best aspects of the project is that when the scheme is over we return to all of the families after six weeks and then three months. We’ll use the feedback that we get to improve and develop as we go along.”
George explained that the project would not have been possible without the help and support of the project’s partners.
“There were so many people and groups involved and without them none of this would have been possible. They, along with the families involved, made the SWEET Project a success.”
Ann Burn, (Jack’s mother) heard of the SWEET Project when her other son Caolan brought home a letter.
“I remember reading it and thought that it would be a fantastic way to not only get healthy but to spend time with my family.
“We were all a bit nervous at the start but we all really enjoyed it.
“I even got back on a bicycle - I hadn’t been on one in years - and as a result we are all looking to join a local cycling club.”
Ann and her three children Jack (11), Caolan (9) and Megan (7) attended weekly meetings since the beginning of January. Ann and Jack took part in the age eight to 11 programme.
They learned about diet and nutrition from the University of Ulster dietetics team and participated in physical activities led by Daniel Quigley.
The family also participated in ‘Cook Offs’ (where they cooked recipes from scratch) in St. Cecilia’s College. Jack said that his proudest moment was when he dished up a homemade chicken pizza.
“It was so tasty and I didn’t know I had it in me to make a pizza,” said Jack.
“We also made chicken fajitas and chicken curry - they were all really nice.”
Ann said that before taking part in the SWEET Project she would never have let her children help out at meal time but since taking part in the ‘Cook Offs’ she has been able to put the feet up and enjoy the quiet life every once in a while.
“All three of the children really impressed me and their food was lovely. I have to say that meal times are easier at home now because it means that I can let them do a bit of the cooking or more importantly do the washing up,” she laughed.
“One of the most important things I learned from taking part in SWEET Project is the importance of portion size at dinner time.
“It was something that I wasn’t sure of before and the portions of food I would have been serving the children before the SWEET Project were quite large.
“But since taking part in the project I am able to manage portion sizes better and it’s obviously helped us to live a healthier lifestyle.”
Ann and the children also took part in several physical activities organised by Daniel Quigley.
For one of the activities they were presented with a list of items and locations and had to walk around the Creggan estate to find them and then photograph each one.
“It was great fun,” said Jack. “We had to walk all over the place and I even got a photo of a man fishing in Creggan reservoir.”
Cycling was next up for Burn family and despite feeling nervous before setting out with the rest of group, Ann, said that as soon as she started cycling it reminded her of being young again.
“I never thought that I would ever be back riding a bike until I became involved with the SWEET Project.
“Obviously a big part of the project is to do with healthy eating but we were all looking forward to the physical side of things.
“But when George [McGowan] said about going cycling I started to get really nervous.
“I got on the bike and George was telling me to not worry and to just go for it so I did but I ended up going over the top of one of George’s toes,” laughed Ann.
She added: “The only bad thing about the project is that it doesn’t last forever. It has really made a big difference to both my life and that of my family.”
“We are living healthier lifestyles and it would not have been possible had it not been for the SWEET Project.
“If anyone reading this is thinking about giving something like the SWEET Project a go then I would say to them to stop thinking about it and just do it - it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Seana and Shea
Waterside mum, Seana Clare and her three year-old son Shea, took part in the SWEET Project in Derryview House in the Top of the Hill.
Seana and Shea first met Daniel Quigley at the ‘Hooley On The Hill’ last year. When Seana heard that George McGowan and Daniel Quigley were planning on running the SWEET Project in her area, she decided to give it a go.
“I like grapes and I like apples,” said Shea whilst playing with his toys.
Seana says that since taking part in the SWEET Project, Shea has started to eat more fruit but added that it’s still a fight to get him to eat vegetables.
“Shea enjoyed the project and he’s eating much healthier food now than he was before. We even learned about how to read food labels when you’re out shopping and we’ve a few recipes that we cook at home.
“Shea is eating plenty of fruit but I am still trying to convince him about the vegetables - he’s not having any of it,” she laughed.
She added: “One of the main reasons I decided to get involved in the two to four years-old programme was because I wanted to spend some time with Shea.
“Shea also really looks up to Daniel Quigley. He’s achieved so much through his kickboxing and think he’s a great role model for young children like Shea.”
The families met every week since the start of January for 12 weeks. The parents met every Wednesday evening to discuss nutrition and crèche facilities were provided by the SWEET Project.
Later in the week, the parents and toddlers took part in physical activities organised by Daniel.
The activities included gymnastics, kick-boxing and dancing.
“Shea is always practicing what he learned in the gymnastic classes at home.” [Just as Seana says this, Shea gets up on the sofa and balances his hands on the ground].
“Look at what I can do,” he says. “I’m really good at this.”
Besides the emphasis on a healthy lifestyle, Seana said that there was a social aspect to the SWEET Project and said that the parents involved have even set up a Facebook page to share recipes.
“Well, the way I look at it is like this - there not much point in taking part in a 12 week course and then not continuing it on when the project’s over.
“It’s been over for 12 weeks and we all still share recipes on Facebook. The SWEET Project was great for us and we are really thankful to both George and Daniel - we’ve really benefited from it.”
The SWEET Project is being delivered by the Old Library Trust in the Healthy Living Centre Creggan as part of the EU INTERREG IVAs UP4IT! Project.
The SWEET programme is a free fun packed programme that helps families become fitter, happier and healthier together. Funding for the project has been secured from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA programme by Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT), the cross border health services partnership.
The SWEET Project is currently recruiting for its next 12 week programme. To find out if you meet the criteria for the two to four year old programme or the eight to 11 year old programme contact George McGowan at the Healthy Living Centre in Creggan on 02871 373870 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org