A Newry fitness fanatic who works with NSPCC Northern Ireland’s Young Witness Service is hosting daily workout sessions during lockdown to raise funds for the leading children’s charity.
Christine Bowden, a Children’s Services Practitioner for NSPCC Northern Ireland’s Young Witness Service, has kept herself busy during the pandemic by completing exercise sessions from home with her colleagues from the YWS, friends and members of the health and fitness community.
This was no hardship for the Newry woman because as well as working for NSPCC since September 2019, she is a qualified personal trainer and functional fitness coach.
The 33-year old decided she wanted to support NSPCC’s Childhood Day by raising much needed funds and also raise awareness of the fact the Young Witness Service is still here for children.
The Young Witness Service, which is the only one of its kind throughout the UK, provides support and assistance to children and young people under 18 years old who have to attend court as prosecution witnesses in Northern Ireland.
It operates in every local crown, magistrate and youth court in Northern Ireland and in 2019-20, offered support to 480 young witnesses across Northern Ireland.
Despite the lockdown, it is still working to support children. Although courts in Northern Ireland were ordered to close due to the Coronavirus pandemic, from March 26 except for those dealing with “urgent matters” the Service continues to reach out to children and their families online and over the phone and using relevant technology.
Christine said: “I am passionate about fitness and exercise is a crucial part of my life so it made sense to combine my love of fitness with my wish to share the message that the Young Witness Service is still here and available to offer our expertise in helping to prepare children to face a court situation.
“Above all, I wanted to support Childhood Day and raise much needed funds. So, I created Christine’s Childhood Day Countdown and as a team, the Young Witness Service and I embraced this challenge from the outset.
“Childhood Day is on June 26 this year so I decided to run a daily, virtual workout at 10.26 every morning from the start of June, for my team, and finishing up on the Day itself. Initially, it was for staff, volunteers and friends but then I realised that if I used Facebook Live, there would be a much bigger audience and if people weren’t free in the morning, they could take part later because the workouts are posted online every day.
Christine added: “This has been a huge learning curve for me because I have not done anything on this scale and on social media but from the first day on Monday, June 1 there has been amazing support with overwhelming participation from NSPCC staff, supporters and volunteers. I was so encouraged that we reached £500 of donations in the first week alone and I can’t wait to see this figure increase.”
The workout itself is short, snappy and suitable for all abilities and one of the highlights has been an input from a local yoga and Pilates instructor – like everything else, this particular session will remain on Facebook for those who missed it. Also, Christine’s new puppy will soon be joining in with the sessions so even for those who are less interested in fitness , it should be very entertaining.
Christine added: “All I ask is that people donate what they can to take part and it’s good to know that donating £24 could pay for the trained counsellors in our Childline bases in Belfast and Foyle to answer six children’s calls for help and £54 could pay for two hours of a specialist counsellor, enabling children to get the help they need when they need it. However, all donations, large and small are very welcome.”
Joanne McMaster, Supporter Fundraising Manager for Northern Ireland, said: “We are hugely grateful to Christine for organising this wonderful fundraising initiative for NSPCC’s Childhood Day. This is NSPCC Northern Ireland’s third Childhood Day and is taking place on Friday, June 26, 2020 and in the run up to the day, we are asking people to stand with us and support our work – there are lots of fun and simple ways to get involved.
“This year, Childhood Day is encouraging the people to “Be a big kid” and raise money to help us be here for children. This could include organising a childhood themed quiz night, getting sponsored to dress up for the day or holding a mini sports day in your back garden but in all cases, remembering to follow the latest social distancing rules. There are lots more ideas on how to get involved and suggestions for fun events on our website www.nspcc.org.uk/childhoodday.
“Funds raised by the day could not come at a better time because we are growing increasingly concerned about the number of children who will experience abuse or neglect due to the impact of Coronavirus, with families struggling with lockdown, job losses and school closures. By supporting Childhood Day you are raising awareness and crucial funds to enable us to keep children and young people safe.”