Lifestart Council

  • Patrick Durkan – Chair
  • Ursula Birthistle – Vice-chair
  • Mary Magowan
  • Maire McReynolds
  • Mairead Wrynn

Staff Team

Emma Holmes – Accounts Administrator

EmmaEmma has over 12 years’ experience in admin work helping companies to stay organised and keep everything running smoothly. Emma is the appointed person to deal with queries arising on matters such as accounts, booklets, minute taking, wages, Sage accounts and IT support. Emma is also our point of contact between all Lifestart Franchisees liaising with each Lifestart service provider on a weekly basis. A busy and valuable part of the Lifestart Foundation  Team.

Since completing a university degree in Property, Emma worked as a PA for a large manufacturing company and also worked in recruitment, which lead her to completing a CIPD qualification in HR.

Outside of the work place Emma is a mother of 4 young children. She has recently trained to become a Doula for our Bump Birth and Beyond Programme as well as training in Baby Massage and Baby Yoga. Emma enjoys motherhood, walking, spending time with family and shopping.

Lesley Wilson – Family Visitor

Lesley has been part of the Lifestart Foundation for the past 20 years. She has welcomed the opportunity to share relevant and extremely useful, information on parenting and child development with families. Her degree in child development and youth studies has given her a great insight into this field of work.

Lesley is also a community facilitator which enables her to facilitate many of the Lifestart courses/sessions to parents within the community. Lesley works within the Ards and Peninsula area of Northern Ireland and enjoys the opportunity to support and to give, up to date information to parents of children from birth to 5 years. Knowing this will positively aid their children’s learning and development, in preparation for the school environment.

Lesley states “It’s been a privilege over the years to help parents further develop their children’s capabilities with this free, home-based child-development programme!”

Lesley has three grown up children, a son and two daughters. Two of which live in Northern Ireland and one lives in Australia. Lesley’s hobbies are walking, reading, drawing and spending time with her family and animals which includes three dogs, one cat and a horse.

Carolann Ward – Family Visitor

CarolannCarolann has been with the organisation since April 2022. Carolann delivers the ‘Growing Child Programme’ to families each month with families in the Western Trust area. She has over 25 years’ experience in child development, play and working with families. Carolann returned to education at the age of 39 to complete an HND in ‘Working with Families and Children’ and at 42 she graduated from Doncaster University with a BA Hons in ‘Child  Development’.

She has recently completed ‘Doula’ training and is currently training in Baby Massage and Yoga.

Carolann also facilitates the SMILE Baby programme and other parenting groups within the organisation.

Carolann is married to Niall and has two children, Euan and Grace. She states “As a parent myself I have a understanding of how rewarding parenting can be but also how it can sometimes be difficult”

Outside of work Carolann enjoys family time, walks on the beach and shopping!

Carolann is also a Reiki master and has an interest in ‘complementary therapies’.

Dr Pauline McClenaghan – Executive Director of the Lifestart Foundation since 2006.


Prior to joining Lifestart, Pauline was a university lecturer and researcher with specialisms in education and learning and community studies. She has a number of publications in her field and she has presented at international conferences throughout the world. She is a founder member of the Home Visiting Alliance Ireland and sits on the Board of Directors of Derry Well Women. She was educated at St Anne’s College Oxford, Trinity College Dublin and the University of Roskilde Denmark.  She states that ‘In our experience the majority of parents want the best for their children but for a variety of reasons some parents find this difficult to achieve. We in Lifestart aim to provide parents with the child development support they need.  When parents realise that what they do in the home can make a real difference to their child’s development outcomes, this is a powerful motivation for change’.

In her spare time Pauline enjoys flyfishing. She is qualified flyfishing coach and is a member of the Board of APAGI Ireland.

Lynn Patterson – Family Visitor

LynnLynn has almost 30 years of experience helping and supporting families in the development of their child/children. Specializing in Training and Development. Lynn uses this experience to tailor a Training Needs Analysis for each family to effectively support, encourage and promote a ‘Yearn to Learn’ approach for both parent and child.

By focusing on supporting and advocating for parents and children Lynn has been able to put the qualifications she gained in Training and Development and Child Development to good use. She has recently completed ‘Doula’ training and is currently training in Baby Massage and Yoga.

Within the Lifestart Foundation Lynn’s says “ Getting to build trusting, positive relationships with families gives her the most pleasure and satisfaction”. This coupled with advocating for parent’s and children’s rights are what gets her up in the morning!

When they’re not at Lifestart, Lynn likes walking (made to walk!!) with her daughter and spending time with her own family. Oh, and she is an avid shopaholic!!!

Jacki Connolly – Intern Manager

JackiJacki is the newest member of the team and has only worked at Lifestart since Sept 2023. She has a degree in combined studies, a diploma in counselling and a level 5 in leadership and management. She has worked in the community and voluntary sector for over 21 years and has managed a Child & Family centre for over 16 years.

She states “I’m looking forward to this new challenge in my life , The Lifestart Foundation  aims and objectives are very much in line with my own beliefs that all parents should have support and knowledge of child development  to  be the best parents they can be”.

Jacki has two sons Jason and Aidan. Outside of work Jacki enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, walks and yoga.