Equipping for Life for a better future

About the project

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By June 2019, Equipping for Life already had 70 volunteers vetted and trained, working in schools and employability organisations in North and West Belfast, with plans for many more to begin volunteering shortly.

Profiles: the lowdown on …
We are already a large community working to support the children in our community. You might like to meet a few of them.
Founded by Brother David Jardine in Spring 2018, Equipping for Life enables people of faith to volunteer time in communities that have been impacted by deprivation. We seek to equip people for a better life by our volunteers supporting existing education, employability and social cohesion initiatives.

Our Vision is: Lives transformed; communities revitalized.
Our Mission is: To equip people for a better future.
Our Values are: Faith, Integrity, Equality, Hope.

Meet the Equipping for Life team
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Founder/Director: Brother David Jardine

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Facilitator: Tommy Stewart
Tommy is a facilitator and very knowledgeable in the types of ministry like Equipping For Life. He has been with the project since the beginning.

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Project Development Officer: Mrs Pat Hutchinson MBE
Pat has worked with Divine Healing Ministries for almost 30 years. She also managed Newtownabbey Citizens Advice for 32 years and is experienced in our area of work.

More about Pat here.


Brother David Jardine
Gordon Bell (more here)
Councillor Nicola Verner
Suzi McLean

Lord Eames
Baroness May Blood
Sir Nigel Hamilton
Rev. Jim Rea

Equipping for Life is a charitable company with limited liability Company No: NI654291 and an HMRC recognised charity No: NI00884.
"Equipping for Life is addressing the serious problem of under achievement in North and West Belfast. It is helping young people to value education through one-to-one mentoring. This programme, the vision of Brother David Jardine, is exciting. It has the potential to bring new hope for an upcoming generation."
Rev. Jim Rea M.B.E. (former President of the Methodist Church)

“The Greater Shankill Children & Young People Zone is building a ‘coalition of the willing’ committed to providing support to help transform the lives of this generation of children and young people. Bro. David Jardine and Equipping For Life have ’stepped up to the plate."
Dr. Jackie Redpath MBE

“There is nothing more important than ensuring that our children have both the skills and the values to help them through life. It is a privilege for me to be associated with Equipping for Life and I would encourage as many as possible to become involved in practical ways to support the ministry.“
Sir Nigel Hamilton

"Thank you that I have been updated with the amazing ministry you and your team have on the Shankill Road area. Be assured of my prayers and love in all your efforts."
Heather Bune, Exeter, Devon – Prayer partner

“The purpose of a good education is simple”...... ‘It’ should enable a child to become the author of the story of ‘Their Life’.
This project will give the extra support needed to achieve this."
Baroness May Blood

Testimonials from participating schools
What do the teachers think of the EfL initiative? Here are some of their responses.
Malvern Primary School
At Malvern Primary School we value the time our Equipping for Life volunteers spend with our children. As well as having the opportunity to talk about their reading interests, the children form relationships and bond with the volunteers.
The children look forward to the extended reading time. They have the opportunity to talk about themselves and their work in school with an adult who is not officially part of the school i.e. a teacher or classroom assistant.
For some children, it is a time when they can read aloud in a safe environment where that they don’t feel judged by others in their class. For others, it is a chance to practice reading aloud and discuss their books at length.
Here, at Malvern, our children read extensively as part of our Accelerated Reading programme and are given time to read in our library and our ‘Starbooks’ reading café.
Equipping for Life volunteers provide a further outlet to promote the love of reading and extend that enjoyment beyond the classroom. With this help we know our children can be lifelong readers and that is a wonderful gift to bestow upon a child.
Genevieve McSorley, Principal
Forth River School
“Our pupils have benefitted greatly from the one-to-one reading experience they have had through EfL. The children have blossomed academically, socially and spiritually. They look forward very much to their weekly sessions with the devoted group of volunteers.”
Judith Stevenson, Deputy Head Teacher
Springhill Primary School
We have been very impressed with the manner in which Equipping for Life is run. From the outset we have been struck by the high calibre and gentle nature of the team in general and in their approach to working along with us in setting up the volunteer tutors in our school. Schools are busy places and teachers can be under considerable pressure. The team seemed to have an instinctive understanding of this and listened fully to suggestions about how this could work best within Springhill.
We were also struck by the immediate and almost entirely positive responses from the parents of pupils first offered the places.
We selected our pupils partly on ability but also through judging which children would simply benefit most from the one to one nature of the sessions. Many of our children do not have access to this sort of time and attention in day to day life. They benefit greatly from the opportunities to read with and for articulate and interested adults, as well as conversing with them.

The enthusiasm of our pupils towards this scheme is obvious and I believe is similarly so in other schools where the scheme operates. The pupils cannot wait to go to their session and indeed will happily sacrifice other things in order not to miss their time. As a teacher I am reminded that the ‘volunteers’ must be recorded on our messages board for each coming week. It is interesting that one of our pupils who we knew would benefit but who was initially reticent and chose not to attend has since become involved and is enjoying the sessions. This is down to her class teacher who has encouraged her, her family and also at least partly down to the enthusiasm of her peers for the scheme.
There are certainly other pupils who would like to be involved but as you are aware our difficulty is providing enough time in an equally pleasant space to accommodate any additional volunteers – however – never say never.
Finally, can we thank you for including our school in this positive, valuable and worthwhile experience. The opportunity for our pupils is very greatly appreciated.
Kind regards and many thanks indeed so far.

Janet Smyth (English Co-Ordinator) and Janet Lyness (Acting Principal)

Telling Tales from School
Anecdotes from our classrooms, both enlightening and entertaining.
1. This must never happen again
A little boy in one of the schools on the Shankill, who comes every week to the reading class, is also involved in two or three other activities in the school. Because of these other activities he missed the reading class three weeks in a row. So he decided to do something about it. He went along to the Head Teacher and explained what had happened.........then he told the Head that 'under no circumstances must this ever happen again'.
2. You're very welcome
David Jardine was part of a group of Volunteer Tutors being shown around one of the schools where we take children for reading. They went into a class of children about 6 or 7 years old. The children were looking up at all these big people walking around. As David walked towards a little girl a smile came to her face and she said, 'You're all very welcome in this class.'
Money couldn't buy an experience like that.
3. The Prayer
The Volunteer Tutors have received permission from parents to say a short prayer with the child before we begin reading. On one occasion a Volunteer forgot to say the prayer. The little girl leaned forward and in a low voice said, ' the prayer '.
4. Pen pals
One of our Volunteers has a grandson in Scotland who is 7 years of age, the same age as the little boy she is taking for reading. She asked her grandson to write a letter to the boy on the Shankill. The boy received it well, wrote back, and now the two have become pen pals.
5. Book Donation
A kind benefactor donated £5000 to buy Christian books for the children on the Shankill. The books have been purchased, but are on hold because schools are closed at the moment. One of the Volunteers got advance copies of the books and started to use them with the children. The children loved them. So here are the names of some of the books.
Eric says sorry
Eric says thanks
Eric says please

You are special by Max Lucado (Candle Books )
Friends with God by Jeff White (Lifetree Group )

6. The Upside Down Giraffe
Seven of us in George's team volunteer in Springfield Primary (Northern Ireland's Top Primary) where they are pushed for space so we are in nooks and passages throughout the school. Consequently all school life goes on around us.
Sitting by the entrance with my P4 reader, we were surrounded by the little P1s on a 'safari' hunt. All the cutout animals were on the walls, on the furniture and hidden places. Armed with lists and pencils they were in a high state of excitement as they dashed around looking for animals. It was impossible not to get involved! There was an upside down giraffe on the wall above my head which they were missing and my little boy reader raised his eyebrows and pointed a finger upwards. One little bright spark caught on and quickly marked it on her sheet. A big knowing smile lit up her face and gradually it went round the group that a giraffe hanging upside down was above our heads. Although they were excited, we were struck by the wonderful behaviour of these very young children who are a credit to the school and their teachers. Makes it all worthwhile. Well done, Springfield Primary and Brother David.

Joan and John Hayes

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Equipping for Life, About