Matt Talbot Community Trust is a Community Education Programme working with adults in recovery from addiction. This submission is a culmination of a series of discussions with a group with lived experience of addiction and drug use discussing the remit of the Citizen’s Assembly on Drug Use. In this video they address the question – what can be done by the State to reduce the harm of illicit drug use to the individuals, families, communities and the wider community. The group discussed many aspects, in this video they discuss the key points that they felt impacted them most including decriminalisation, support for women in accessing services and access to treatment and rehabilitation. The video can be found at https://youtu.be/yqfkauqjr2o . The discussions in general were solution focused and one of the solutions that the group intend to implement is a women’s “walk and talk” group offering peer to peer support. Its aim is to reduce the fear, stigma and isolation experienced by women affected by addiction and to encourage them to access services in a non-judgmental environment where they feel safe and supported. This group will be peer led and open to all women to join. This is one of a number of suggestions that the participants in Matt Talbot Community Trust will focus their thinking on over the coming months. The most important outcome to these discussion is that we have solutions at local level. What we need is for our Government to listen and be prepared to recognise that lived experience has to be acknowledged in how policy is developed and reflected in how drug programmes are funded.
All participants have given their permission to share this recording
Please view the video using this link
1. What do you do on a typical day (Karen McDonagh: Senior Project Worker)
My day is all about people. My role involves ensuring that all of our participants eventually step off our programme into further education or employment. I sit down with each individual to discuss their future options. Together we look at life skills, learning opportunities, work experience so they can “try it on for size”, employment training and future careers. I then liaise with educational facilities, our corporate partners, various community and business organisations to build positive relationships and engage their support in creating work placement and job opportunities for our participants.
2. What do you get out of it
For me it’s all about intrinsic reward. I want to add value and make a difference. If I can support someone in making positive change in their lives, then I feel that I have achieved something. I also love the variety of the role and that no two days are the same.
3. What does your job normally entail
One to one meetings with participants discussing their future. Coaching them so that they understand what it is that they want to achieve and then I help them to develop a personal development plan with clear goals and objectives. Sometimes it is about listening and being there when someone is struggling. Following up on job leads, work experience opportunities, learning opportunities etc. Networking in the community and with other community and business organisations, looking for work placements, career mentors and job opportunities. Supporting the participants during work placements. Providing advocacy for those who need support. Participating in group activities. Researching learning opportunities. Facilitating group work and workshops. My role is about providing our participants with the support, the tools and the opportunities that they need in order to achieve their goals.
4. What’s your favourite memory/experience working in MT.
The sense of community. Meeting the families, ex participants dropping by and doing well, watching children grow up, watching people succeed in achieving their goals. I particularly enjoyed the summer outings to Ballinascorney with the group and their families.
For an organisation founded over thirty years ago there have been many changes but also constants that are embedded into the culture of our daily routine. Our founding member SrCaoimhin clearly understood the value of bringing people together around the table as a means of creating a sense of belonging and community. As such each day begins and ends with a coming together around the table to share foodand lots of laughter to sustain us through the day.
The ethos of MT has always been on the building of relationships and community from within. In order for that to happen it requires ongoing engagement and giving time at individual and group level every day. For me no day is ever the same as the needs of the group and organisation shift and change. My time is occupied with following up with counselling support, crisis intervention, involvement in project based learning initiatives, report writing, responding to a funders requests, networking at local level, visitingprison to follow up on a referral, attending court, meeting with Board members. All of the above requires me to think in very different ways and focus on the issue to hand.
As expectation shift and change requiring charities to have expertise in law, finance, governance, research it becomes a constant juggling act of ensuring that group needs are met and expectations of funder are adhered to.
What Do I get Out of It
Challenge of dealing with such a wide range of issues, challenge for myself in constantly learning and adapting to new situations as research develops and new working methodologies give us insight into progressing our work.
I am deeply conscious that as expectations of charities shift towards higher levels of accountability, and administrative tasks we are in danger of forgetting about why we are here in the first place and that is to work with people.
This is coupled with having to compete for limited resources to ensure that we can provide a high quality, relevant programme. I see it that it is my responsibility to go out there a shout with a very loud voice on behalf of our community to ensure that the wider community and society recognise the value of what and how we do it in Matt Talbot
What Does Your Job Normally Entail?
As Director, I work closely with the Board and Senior management team to ensure that our programme is relevant and meeting the evolving needs of a diverse group of people. My role spans from direct engagement with group members, support to our outreach, raising awareness of the needs of group members with funders and corporate partners and ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is adequately in place to support the continuation of our community into the future
What’s My Favourite Memory/ Experience working in MT
There are so many memories that are completely stand Out for me so this is very hard to answer.
Being in a position to watch and be part of the lives of so many families that came to join us in Ballinascorney for the summer residential programme over many years is definitely something that fills me with joy. Without giving too much away in terms of my length of tenure with Matt Talbot, I have had the privilege of knowing children that in turn brought their children to the summer programme!!
We were able to create a magical experience there that included nights around the camp fire telling stories and singing while drinking our hot chocolate and toasting marshmallows; midnight walks into the forest and canoeing expeditions on the Slaney river; the constant washing and sorting of clothes into everyone’s “piles “and up early to make the breakfast each day. Each year when the children arrived I would mark off their height on a wall so that they could see how much they had grown from one year to the next. In many ways it became a home from home for so many people in the Ballyfermot area.