We are Digital Champions!

Our commitment to enable our participants become digitally literate led us to participate in the first digital inclusion week in Ireland organised by An Cosan. Listen here to our staff member, Karen McDonagh, as she explains why digital skills are a basic necessity in our time and click here to listen to our fantastic participant, Pamela, who explains how becoming more digitally skilled has improved her life!

We look forward to continue collaborating with An Cosan in the future!

Our mention in the Financial Times’ article with Jessie Buckley

We are yet again humbled by all the love and care received from our ambassador, the unique Jessie Buckley! In her latest interview with the Financial Times, Jessie mentioned our organization and what we mean to her: ‘For me, it’s another family. Wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever struggles you have, how little you have in your pocket, it doesn’t matter, it’s a door that is always open to help and to nurture.’

Our director, Grainne Jennings, is also cited in the article, mentioning the incredible help Jessie Buckley has given us in fundraising for the refurbishing of our main building that recently went on fire. And while Jessie’s effort in helping us financially has been invaluable, Grainne acknowledges that ‘The level of humanity that she brings to the table and the empathy. She has a wonderful capacity to tune into the unsaid.’ Follow this link to read in full this exciting, in-depth interview With Jessie Buckley.

And if you resonate with our cause, we invite you to donate and help us fully build the center again. You can do so following this link.


Project-Based Learning Experience: Interviewing Jessie Buckley

As part of our Project Based Learning programme, we have initiated a series of ‘In Conversation with…’ podcasts that give our participants the opportunity to interview prominent public figures. This project was created to enable participants to apply and develop the communication skills they learn in workshops conducted by journalist Aura McMenamin.

On the 4th of May we had the opportunity to have a conversation with Hollywood star Jessie Buckley which was conducted by one of our participants. On our website, you will find a brief interview in which our participant shares his thoughts on communication, the project-based learning approach, and on interviewing Jessie Buckley!

I: Hi, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

P: I’m 35 years of age, I have three kids, who are 19, 12 and 7-months. I’m from Ballyfermot, I lived there all my life. As a person I would be friendly and smiley, I would talk to anybody and I am open minded.

I: I would also say that you are a very humorous person and always make people laugh

P: Well you can tell a lot from laughing. If someone goes through a serious situation, you can kind of laugh at it but you’re also recognizing it as one of them things. You can’t take life too seriously, but it has to be done in the right manner and at an appropriate time.

I: What do you think about communication?

P: Communication is extremely important. People think differently, people take up conversations or different situations probably more seriously than other people. You need to know how to communicate. If you go around and you don’t know how to communicate, it can affect your family; you might come out roaring and it pushes you to anger. With me, I didn’t really communicate as a teenager, and I’ve seen the effects of that and in a lot of friends too, who ended up committing suicide. And I think it comes down to not talking. Suicide happens especially in the area where I come from. I suppose whatever life they are living they can’t really communicate and they are probably disconnected. With me, I head to learn my feelings again. I couldn’t pinpoint what I was that I was feeling and so anger kind of fuelled me. I was very fearful but couldn’t show it so I was angry.

I: Do you think communication skills can be learned?

P: It is never too late to learn it. I don’t know where I lost my communication, in what part, or stage or life but I lost it somewhere along the line. But yes, you can pick it up bit by bit, probably taking me a while but you are getting there.

I: Can you give us an example where you learned these communication skills?

P: When I attended my communication workshops with Aura, before interviewing Jessie, I don’t think I could have done it as confidently. When you do stuff, it builds up your confidence.

I: So do you link communication with confidence?

P: Definitely. See people I would talk to, if I was in a job situation and was talking to a manager I would feel like a little child. But if you see me talking to someone out there I’d put up a show. Because you’re not used to talking to someone who is well educated, you feel less, you’re looking at your toes and you are shy.

I: What did you learn in your communication workshops with Aura?

P: I found the workshop with Aura very interesting. I learned how to turn a conversation around. How to get a conversation to go the way you want it to go, without being blunt about it. Which is a good skill to have in your daily life.

I: How was interviewing Jessie Buckley?

P: I was very nervous. I had my questions written down but I had to get rid of the sheets and I was doing it freely. When you talk to someone like that you think they are in Hollywood but really, they are just the same as you. Everybody is the same. And when you get outside your area you think you are not capable and you don’t fit in so its nice to talk with someone like that.

I: What did you enjoy the most about it?

P: I really enjoyed just talking to her in general and then it was that pushing yourself over that barrier of doing this kind of thing. And when you’ve done it you can give yourself praise and get praise from others; I think that’s a big thing too. So, I think pushing little barriers like that allows you do other things.

I: How did you find this learning experience (project-based learning) in comparison to traditional ways of learning?

P: I do think you have to put learning in practice. You can read a book all day long – I mean I can read a book all day about going to space but it doesn’t mean I can go to space. You can research stuff all day but doing it is the way to learn. And the confidence too, you are applying it. You are not going to be thinking it about doing it, you would have had it done.

I: Where do you see yourself in the future?

P: For me to be doing something it has to have a meaning. I could see myself working in my community. I can see myself being a helpful person, I like helping people and I seem to have connection with people especially in my area, who struggle with mental health.

I: Thank you so much, I am sure that is something that will happen.


Working with the Matt Talbot Community Trust: Aura McMenamin

I was honoured to hold Interview Skills workshops for members of the Matt Talbot Community Center. As a former journalist, speaking to people from all walks of life was an integral part of the job, and I was happy to share my tips and guidelines for preparing and conducting an interview. For one of the first talks in March, Irish actress Jessie Buckley was invited to speak. I hosted the first workshop with four participants. In April, I had a workshop with another participant who would be interviewing Senator Lynn Ruane.

They were very confident, enthusiastic and inquisitive when taking on each exercise and task. I got them to think of questions they would ask any person, alive or living, of their choosing. Later, I got them to interview each other. Lastly, their homework was to research their speaker and come up with questions by themselves or add questions from their peers before we met for part two of the workshop.

During both workshops, they all asked probing and original questions. They took on the feedback really well. A common thing I heard was, “I’m doing something out of my comfort zone.” Interviewing someone, much less publicly on video, is nerve-wracking, but they all did a great job. They’re all strong speakers, with their own stories to tell, their own unique perspectives and the ability to relate to others.



One real-life ‘good nun’ deserves to be remembered

The ‘cruel nun’ stereotype has become a stock figure in contemporary narratives and a real stinker appears in Marie Hargreaves’ recently published memoir The Convent.

This is one Sister Isobel O’Brien, who beat young children with wooden coat hangers, pulled their hair, pinched them viciously and, in a special humiliation, abolished their Christian names, telling them “you have no family”.

Marie Hargreaves was born in Oldham, Lancashire, to an Irish mother who went on to have 10 children. Her mother, though loving, was mentally unstable, and Marie and her brother were committed to an orphanage at Our Lady’s Convent at Billinge, in Merseyside. Marie was only six, and was subjected to a reign of terror by Sister Isobel.