Bringing Sunshine to those in need

Eoin Meegan

While not open at present, Sunshine House normally provides week-long breaks for kids in need between May and August. Overseen by the Sunshine Fund, a unique branch of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Sunshine House has for the past 85 years provided summer holidays for children, aged 7 to 10, from Dublin and surrounding counties.
For the most part, children selected come from backgrounds of socio-economic disadvantage, as well as those suffering from bereavement or family breakdown, or whose parents are separated. They are nominated through local Vincent De Paul conferences, social workers and teachers.
Founded in 1935 Sunshine House is a purpose-built holiday home a short walk from the beach in Balbriggan, North Dublin, which can cater for up to 90 children per week.
The well-equipped grounds boast a concert hall, play centre, and an indoor jungle gym (sounds wonderful!) as well as sports areas including football pitches and basketball courts.
Here they are provided with food, board, €10 spending money, and the chance to meet and make new friends; all under full-time positive adult supervision. Many exciting activities are laid on daily, including beach trips, crab hunting, a trip to Ardgillan Castle, and two days shopping; ensuring tons of fun for all the children.
Since opening its doors, over 100,000 young people have passed through Sunshine House, including children from Ringsend and Pearse Street. Most children, and indeed adults who went as kids, treasure the fond memories of the holiday they had there; indeed for some it was the only holiday they ever got.
Emer Simmons, a professional Community and Youth Worker based in Ringsend and Irishtown, has been an active volunteer with The Sunshine Fund for the past six years. She told NewsFour:
“From a personal view, I think Sunshine House is a special place which allows children to just be children, have fun and escape the often harsh reality of their daily lives. The benefits are huge, even the simple fact of having your own bed and a guaranteed three nutritious meals a day, things that many children are denied.
I’ve seen really shy children become confident over the space of a week, make new friends and showcase their talents, be it sports, dancing or singing.”
Emer started out as a volunteer when she was in college. Sunshine House is now an integral part of her life and she has nominated children to have a holiday there, having seen the benefits it brings both to children and their families.
“When you’re in Sunshine House it’s like a bubble, you don’t care about the news and forget all your own worries and stresses. The main focus is that the children receive a top-quality, memorable and safe holiday. I have come in contact with many children who were lucky enough to get a holiday in Sunshine House and indeed many adults who went as children. They all speak very fondly of their time there.
One man I work with went on a holiday to Sunshine House in the 1980s and told me it was one of the first places he was shown love. It’s stories and comments like that which show the lasting benefits and effect such a simple holiday can have.”
The centre is run by volunteers who all receive child protection training and are Garda vetted, so parents can rest assured their children are safe. In addition, there is a designated Child Safeguarding Officer present who deals with any child protection or welfare concerns should they arise.
“Volunteers come from all walks of life and vary in age from 18 to people in their 60s. Each volunteer brings their own set of skills and experience which is great for children to interact with loads of different characters and personalities. For me, my summer wouldn’t be complete without a week in Sunshine.”
Sunshine House depends on public donations to ensure as many children as possible receive a holiday. Due to Covid-19 this year sadly the holidays had to be cancelled. This is a great source of regret to all concerned. However, Emer told NewsFour that Sunshine House are hoping to do Christmas parties and Santa visits for children in December, depending on HSE guidelines and restrictions.
Let’s hope it won’t be long before they will be back doing what they love best, providing love, support, and a well-deserved break for those who need them.
You can find more information on Sunshine House at 0877547511. Or if you wish to donate, as they rely on public donations, the number is 0851430103 or