Fledglings Early Years Education & Care is the first project co-funded by the Smurfit Kappa Foundation. It is a not-for-profit social franchise based in Tallaght West, Dublin.
Fledglings is part of An Cosán, which means “the path” in the Irish language, the aim of which is to provide an educational pathway to social change. Fledglings was established as a social franchise in 2007 in response to the need for early education and care in the Tallaght West community.
The project provides early years education to children aged from three months to five years, and an after-school service to older children. It has already opened four early-years services in Tallaght West and now aims to spread the service to other communities. Established in an area with a particularly high rate of lone parent families, Fledglings not only offers parents the chance to return to education or work, but also provides direct employment in the community.
Fledglings was chosen as the first project for the Smurfit Kappa Foundation as its values and aims are in line with ours. This social franchise recognises that helping children in a community not only improves the future prospects for that particular child, but also for that child’s family and ultimately the wider community. As well as this, the initiative works to create a culture of social enterprise and financial independence in the community.
Smurfit Kappa’s headquarters are in Dublin, with one of our plants located in Tallaght, thus it seemed fitting that our first project would be here. Tallaght West ranks among the highest of the most severely disadvantaged areas in Ireland. The community has a high unemployment rate, low literacy levels, a third of households are headed by lone mothers, and there is a shortage of early years child places.
With the support of the Smurfit Kappa Foundation, the aim is for Fledglings to spread its knowledge to other communities and open four new early years’ services each year. It is estimated that this social enterprise will be self-sustainable by 2016, transforming the lives of hundreds of children and families in disadvantaged areas in the process.