A conference celebrating the lives and achievements of people with learning dissabilities took place in Loughrea last week. The conference titled Making it happen sought to recognize the achievements of disabled people in the East Galway region.
Many of the people involved have had to overcome various obstacles in their desire to become respected members of their community. Despite these hurdles more than 40 people told their story to a captive audience.
The night was enlivened through displays of music, art, song, photography and dance. Supported by staff, people with learning disabilities described their joys and struggles at achieving life ambitions, these ranged from writing and recording a song to achieving educational awards.
In the 57 years since the Brothers of Charity first established their service in Kilcornan, the model of delivery has changed to that of supporting people with learning disabilities, and helping them to live in ordinary communities. This has been much favoured over the traditional setting of living in closed communities. People with disabilities and their families have ensured that they have the same opportunities to attend local schools, have meaningful employment and enjoy community resources like everyone else.
The conference was financially supported by the Galway Rural Development Co based in Athenry. Elaine Quinn, Community Development Officer, told the gathering of her organisations aim to assist marginalised groups to exert more influence in decisions which affect their lives. She highlighted the importance of working with the local community with an approach that recognises and appreciates people’s talents, as well as the assets of the community rather than focusing on problems.
Sean Conneally, manager for the Brothers of Charity East Sector region recognised the organisation’s centred approach to delivering services, which seeks to discover how each person wants to live their life and what is required to make it possible.
The conference highlighted the importance of friendship for people with disabilities in the local community. Having friends and being a part of the community brings richness and variety to their lives. Rosemarie Kearns, volunteer co-ordinator welcomed people in the community to volunteer an hour or more each week to befriending people with learning disabilities. Anyone interested can contact Rosemarie at 087 9002410.