Western Isles-wide Gaelic youngsters initiative Thig a Chluich (Come and Play) needs your help to make sure it wins the race for an award of up to £50,000.
The group is one of only five in the STV North area to be shortlisted in ITV's The Peoples Projects awards which sees up to £50,000 of Big Lottery Fund money presented to projects through public voting.
The work of the island project is set to feature on STV North news at 6pm on Thursday, March 3rd; and it is hoped that Western Isles residents will get behind the Comunn nam Parant run Thig a Chluich and cast them their votes online.
The Come and Play project focuses on bilingual play sessions for babies and toddlers up to the age of three; and aims to reach out to rural communities and enable parents and carers to enjoy a relaxed and informal group held on their own doorsteps.
“The group encourages the use of Gaelic between parent and child and by keeping it local it means bonds and friendships are formed within families in the same geographical area,” said Project Manager Iona Mactaggart. “Bonds which will hopefully be in place right through their school years.”
Taking place fortnightly within Stornoway, the Thig a Chluich team – learner Gaelic speaker Iona and fluent Gaelic speaker Mairi Macleod – also visit areas the length and breadth of the Western Isles, setting up Come and Play sessions in Ness, Shawbost, the Uists, Tarbert and Breasclete amongst other places in 2015.
With a mix of Gaelic and English, sessions begin with a half-hour free play time where parents, carers, grandparents can enjoy floor-based play-time with their wee one before a structured half-hour Gaelic Bookbug session is taken by Iona and Mairi, after which there's another 30 minutes free play.
“The Bookbug sessions are great fun and the kids are just transfixed,” said Iona. “It's fantastic to see their faces, see the reactions and to hear them start saying their first few words of Gaelic.
“They are at the perfect age for introduction to Gaelic, like a sponge they just soak the language up. Mairi and I both feel it a real privilege to see the babies grow; but also to see the confidence levels of parents grow too.
“We have many parents who say they've forgotten all their Gaelic, but they remember more than they think most of the time and it's great to see them joining in nursery rhymes and gaining the confidence to speak Gaelic again.”
She continued: “An important aspect for us is to keep things as relaxed and informal as possible and for everyone to have fun.
“It's also important for us to get out to the more rural remote communities – it's not easy for some people to come to something in Stornoway for a set-time, and for many it can be quite daunting coming to something big in town if they've never been before.
“Thig a Chluich helps people get to know those in their own village, and gives them an opportunity and resources that they wouldn't normally get in their area.”
And that's where a win in The Peoples Projects would mean an enormous difference to the Come and Play scheme as, if successful, they plan to purchase a transit van to enable more and more Thig a Chluich sessions to take place around the Western Isles.
“At the moment we have to hire a van to go anywhere. That means all our equipment and toys are in storage so we have to collect the van, go to the storage, load the van, go to the session, unload and set up, then after load up the van, back to storage to unload, then return the hire van.
“It's time-consuming and if we had our own van we could not only store everything in it, but it would mean we can go wherever we want when we want to, we can deliver more regular sessions outside of Stornoway.”
Online voting in the ITV's The Peoples Projects awards opens today, Monday February 29th, and closes at noon on Sunday, March 13th.
And to show your support and cast a vote for Thig a Chluich could be easier by visiting www.thepeoplesproject.org.uk