Monday, June 17, 2024

Class act – the fitness instructor helping homeless kids

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A fitness instructor from Dublin has spoken of the challenges and rewards of running classes for children in emergency accommodation.

Santry woman Sinéad Ryan had worked in the fitness industry for over 20 years before founding Little Fitness in 2020.

“A lot of the time when we talk about homelessness, people think of an adult man or woman. But these are children and they’re there and feeling no one cares about them. We need to be doing more.”

The idea for Ms Ryan’s social enterprise came after she met two young boys who were living in emergency accommodation.

“They were saying they couldn’t jump, they couldn’t run, they were really emotional. It got me thinking that there were kids in these services not accessing physical activity programmes or being part of groups. There are kids living there who don’t go outside their rooms or outside the service at all.”

Sinéad Ryan founded Little Fitness in 2020 to help children in emergency accommodation

Last year, Ms Ryan worked with 826 children who are homeless or living in marginalised communities.

The latest homeless figures were announced today and show there were 13,866 people in emergency accommodation in March, of whom 4,147 were children and 9,719 were adults.

This is an increase of 25 on February’s figure, when there were 13,841 people homeless.

There were 23 less children in emergency accommodation in March, compared to February, while the number of adults rose by 48.


Read more: Number of people homeless increases to 13,866


“When you hear a seven-year-old say they’re isolated, it’s not nice. When you see they’ve had a difficult day and they’re so happy to see you, you know you’re doing something good.

“I can’t unsee what I’ve seen and that drives Little Fitness. It’s for the children and it’s an after school programme, it doesn’t matter if they’re homeless or in community groups, it’s about finding their belonging and feeling that they’re part of something.”

Last year, 826 children took part in her fitness classes

Ms Ryan hopes that children who have experienced her classes will feel more comfortable joining other groups or sports teams as they will have engaged with other children their age in a “safe, fun and educational environment that takes them out of their day to day.”

“You do see children miles ahead of themselves and hearing things they might not need to hear, conversations that they shouldn’t be engaged in, and that’s their life.

“Not everybody puts physical activity as a priority but that’s not all we do. It’s about the social and emotional side of things as well and taking them out of the room they’re sharing with family.”

Watch our video to hear more about the work Ms Ryan is doing.

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