Providing a pertinent service to the local community since 2006, the Athlone Family Resource Centre (AFRC ) has continued to operate despite vacation of the Battery Heights base premises to a temporary location at Shannon Academy.
The emergence of COVID-19 necessitated a ‘work from home’ strategy for AFRC staff as they strived to ensure the community would be supported during the persistent pandemic.
AFRC, in conjunction with Westmeath County Council, Westmeath Community Development, local Councillors and the Battery Heights Residents Association have continued working together to support the residents in developing a robust plan to maintain the upkeep of the estate.
Daniel Berry, Chairperson of the Battery Heights Residents Association and Town Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, AFRC Chairperson, have strived to deliver a plan that will support the ongoing efforts of the community while taking into consideration the changes in which the service is being implemented.
As a result of the restrictions on movement and therefore limited resources on offer due to COVID-19, the County Council have kindly provided maintenance of general outdoor areas and funding to the Battery Heights through the local RAPID scheme which is implemented by an Area Implementation Team (AIT ).
All family support and counselling services continue as normal but via video and telephone calls and plans are currently being put in place to resume face to face services under the next phase of Government guidelines which deems safe return to work.
“We are in very pressing times presently and no one knows what the immediate or long term future will look like. The important thing is that we continue to move forward with positive, hopeful attitudes and learn to adapt flexible, creative and forward thinking strategies which could mean that we embrace some of the virtual and remote opportunities in which we have had to explore and embrace. We need to find ways to be more accessible for vulnerable families and children and so we have to anticipate the inevitable.
“We are responsible for ourselves and each other and AFRC will continue to develop ways in which we can become more accountable through times such as this. We acknowledge the importance of a partnership approach to service delivery and the importance of evidence based practice in ensuring better outcomes for children and families and with this in mind we are transitioning in the way we wish to provide services moving forward,” Cllr. O’Rourke asserted.
To date, AFRC has provided over 600 ‘community safety isolation’ packs, along with fresh food hampers to families affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Some 1,000 face masks were hand made by staff and volunteers and provided to frontline service personnel.
“Cunningham’s Pharmacy have provided essential support towards this initiative. The sale of the face masks serves to provide further essential funding towards the local charities initiative. AFRC has also been working in conjunction with Westmeath County Council’s COVID-19 Response Team and continue to provide support to people with prescription collection, shopping, befriending service and emotional supports,” Cllr. O’Rourke continued.
Delores Crerar, development worker at AFRC, has highlighted the support provided by her to the Ladybirds section of the Athlone Girl Guides through the creation and distribution of ‘Mindfulness Activity Packs’ to its members during the initial phase of lockdown while maintaining social distancing. She has also highlighted the important role that social media has played in having a broader reach to the community. AFRC’s Facebook page continues to provide information regarding stress management, anxiety and parenting along with creative ideas, cooking activities, storytime, mindfulness and baby massage.
AFRC has also developed ‘Stay at Home’ packs in partnership with Athlone Library and Cruinniú na nÓg. These packs were developed to celebrate and encourage children and young people’s participation in culture and creativity. Participants can share their work on the Athlone Family Resource Centre Facebook page.
Packs will be distributed in line with COVID-19 restrictions, contact the Family Resource Centre on [email protected] and delivery or collection point will be arranged.
Several camps are running weekly throughout the summer. Play, sensory, outdoor and cocooning packs are also available. Check out their local facebook page to learn more. https://www.facebook.com/AthloneFamilyResourceCentre/.