Lack of funds brings unique music initiative for children with disabilities to a halt

A unique music project bringing people with learning disabilities and primary school children together has ended because of a lack of funding.

The SPARKS project trained young adults with special needs to become mentors teaching  music to young pupils.

Mentors also promoted tolerance and inclusivity by sharing their experiences growing up with disabilities to their classes.

Over six years, SPARKS has taught hundreds of pupils from school right across the Derry City and Strabane Council area.

But schools budgets can no longer stretch to cover the cost of the workshops and funding has run out.

Music mentor Noel Mulgrew says it’s an initiative like no other.

"Becoming a mentor has been a gift," he said.

"No other project allows people with learning disabilities to become a teacher. It’s been an incredible thing in my life."

SPARKS was designed and delivered by two local music teachers. It was devised to give people with learning disabilities the skills to become educators and to break down stigmas surrounding disabilities.

Erica Curran from SPARKS says it has been a success on a number of other levels.

She said: "It’s been like a dream from the beginning. We knew the young mentors had so much potential and were capable.

"For the children to benefit, for the schools to benefit and for their communities to benefit has been a bonus."

UTV attended what could be SPARKS final workshop as Eglinton and Broadbridge Primary Schools came together and performed alongside their mentors.

The inspirational project went out on a high note but are still hoping for a last minute reprieve.

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