Ability Pic: (l to r) Ruth, Garret, Nicola, Josh, Aaron, Kellie, Daobhrin, Eveline Nevin (Ability Coordinator) and Ken Hamilton (Clonmel Men's Shed)
One of the great success stories of community development is the Knockanrawley Resource Centre in Tipperary Town.
Established in 1991, the Centre is governed by an independent Voluntary Board of Directors.
A registered charity and a company limited by guarantee the voluntary directors have expertise in finance, HR, childcare, social inclusion and adult education.
Knockanrawley Resource Centre provides a holistic, whole-of-community approach and is a one-point access to an extensive range of individual, family and community supports, services and information.
Like many organisations within the community and voluntary sector, Knockanrawley is no stranger to challenging times.
While Covid-19 necessitated the closing of their doors to the general public back in March 2020, the staff and management of KRC were very quick to prioritise needs and revert resources to emergency relief.
Their programmes and activities have always focused on individuals and families most disadvantaged and socially excluded, and it quickly became apparent that these families were disproportionately impacted by the sudden school closures, loss of employment, isolation and food insecurity.
Centre Manager, Emer Leahy, explains what actions they put in place to combat the situation.
"Our long running Food Cloud project (with supermarket partners Tesco and Aldi) was quick to scale up response with new requests for support coming in on a daily basis.
"The numbers of families experiencing food shortage increased four-fold during the initial lockdown. With the addition of Centre staff and community group members to the team of volunteers, our SICAP (Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme) team were quick to initiate partnerships with other agencies such as the TÚS programme, Tipperary Civil Defence and the Public Participation Network to fund, collect, pack and deliver food boxes to households in Tipperary Town and a wider surrounding area. On Christmas Eve for example, volunteers collected, prepared and distributed food boxes to over 100 households," she said.
The work of Knockanrawley with young people with a disability was initially severely impacted by Covid with the loss of over 20 work placements and multiple in-person training, coaching and support sessions cancelled. Emer told me how they responded to this situation.
KITE Pic: Front row (l to r) Participants Luke Golding, Michal Denkosski, Angelina Hogan, Rachel O'Dwyer, Kayleigh O'Gorman, Lorraine Treacy (Tutor) & Savanna O'Connell.
Back row (l to r) Participants Matthew Halligan, Dean Ryan, Christine O'Connell & Chloe McEniry.
“With over 50 young people with a disability between the ages of 16 and 29 with no access to their school or day service, our Ability programme quickly became their only external support. Our team kept in constant contact with programme participants through phone calls, posted activities and virtual sessions designed to give them a regular contact with their peers. As soon as it was possible, the team quickly identified safe outdoor activities such as social and therapeutic horticulture, social farming and collaborating with the FOLM project (From Outdoors to the Labour Market) in Limerick Institute of Technology.
“Despite the challenging year, our participants have adapted to new ways of learning and coping and have gained new skills in a variety of areas such as woodcraft, song writing, driver theory and cooking.
“Our Parent and Family Support Programme continues their one-to-one parenting supports and Parents Club, virtually, and has just begun a Parenting when Separated programme in partnership with The Three Drives Family Resource Centre. Our Family Therapy service is busier than ever with counselling supports delivered remotely and resources made available within the Centre for families and individuals that need a safe, private space to engage with their counsellor,” added Emer.
The Community Childcare service, initially closed from March to June, but stayed in constant contact with all families through phone calls, letter writing for the children with postal activities, and in the preparation and delivery of activity packs to over 100 families. Emer says that through the dedication and hard work of their childcare team, they are presently able to provide a restricted service for the children of essential workers.
“While we are very happy to be able to provide this service for essential workers our staff are continuing to engage with our broader community of families, with a particular focus on families with preschool children with additional needs.” Emer wanted to express her sincere thanks, on behalf of their Voluntary Board of Management, to their 60+ staff and volunteers who continue to provide essential services and support to the community in Tipperary Town and surrounding areas and to say how “extraordinarily proud we are of all your work”.
“While the physical closing of our doors to the public goes against everything the Centre stands for, the need to protect our childcare staff and children during these extraordinary times has to remain our priority. We very much hope it will not be long before the Centre returns to being the hive of activity our community knows it to be.”
All programmes and supports continue behind closed doors and contact details are available on their Facebook page and website; www.knockanrawley.ie or by telephoning 083 0763107 or 083 0762830.