CAPITALISING ON THE ASSETS IN THE COMMUNITY

by Cheeverstown Services Paula O’Reilly, Manager of Quality & Strategic Planning

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Cheeverstown House provides supports and services to people with disabilities and their families. Cheeverstown recently launched it’s first strategic plan were the main focus is on developing services and supports locally to people close to their home. This allows for the opportunity for persons with a disability to participate fully in all aspects of everyday society as valued and productive citizens.

Cheeverstown recognises its role as a bridging organisation which actively looks for opportunities to work in partnerships with others in the community. By engaging with people in the community people get a sense of belonging. Communities are based on groups of people and relationships. The benefits of community partnerships include:

  • Good things can happen when people work collectively or individually to make connections
  • People recognise what they have and how they can contribute
  • Relationships are made
  • Knowledge is shared
  • The community benefits as a whole

Over the last 18 months Cheeverstown has turned to Tallaght its local community to work in partnership. The purpose of a partnership is that it is reciprocal for all people involved. The following are examples of some community partnerships which have developed for the benefit of the whole community.

St Dominics Community Centre

Community centres in Tallaght are in the heart of individual communities. One of the community centres we have worked closely with is ST Dominics. A range of projects have come to fruition through this partnership.
Cheeverstown’s early services team met with St Dominics to look at what both organisations had to offer which would be of mutual benefit to the community. St Dominics offered Cheeverstown space in the community centre to run its Introductory morning and parent and toddler group. This has been a good opportunity for parents to be introduced to the local community and find out about activities and supports are being provided by the community centre and information on local community initiatives which are happening. These activities include pre-school, after school care and summer camps. Due to this partnership Cheeverstown has supported individual children with disabilities to attend the pre-school.

The idea for another project came from parents attending our services which was for training on first aid for babies and young children. In collaboration with St Dominics we offered a day training course to parents availing of services and families in the community. It was well attended and gave an opportunity for parents to meet up from the area and discuss future activities which might be of interest to parents in the future.

A number of activities run during the day and evening in St Dominics these include a knitting group, bingo and computer classes. A number of individuals supported by Cheeverstown have attended these groups and have developed friendships.

St Dominic’s recently hosted a luncheon in collaboration with Cheeverstown for all the community partners we are involved in these ranged from local golf club, community Garda and local schools and local community arts. The luncheon reflected the willingness of the community to enter into partnership and the opportunity to build social networks for people we support.

Pathways through Unemployment

Tallaght similar to many towns and cities has been affected by unemployment in the recent downturn in the economy. Cheeverstown decided to look at what action or contribution they could make to address this issue in the community. As a response Cheeverstown alongside a number of other organisations got involved in an initiative with South Dublin County Council. This involved the hosting of a special event in the football stadium in Tallaght targeting people who found themselves unemployed during the present downturn.

The aim of this event was to engage people in an active discussion about their support needs, struggles and ambitions during times of unemployment. Cheeverstown were involved from the start of this project and Gerry O’Connor (Socialisation Coordinator) was on the steering committee who set up this seminar. People involved in CHESS (Cheeverstown House Employment Support Services) were involved in advertising the event by circulating flyers within the Tallaght area, also having a stand on the day promoting volunteering as an option for the unemployed.

Guest speakers on the day were Dr. Tony Bates (well known psychologist and founder of Headstrong and National Centre for Youth Mental Health) and Packie Boner (Technical Director of the FAI on how people can get involved in sport coaching and refereeing while looking for work). The event was attended by over 300 people.

For most of us people and relationships define our lives. The importance of social networks in giving people a sense of belonging cannot be underestimated. Often for people with disabilities opportunities to have those networks and be active citizens is limited due to how services organise themselves. By developing community partnerships service organisations can play a role of bridging people to their community. These partnerships can develop so that not only does the individual start to build bridges with the community and thus relationships but also the community can benefit.

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