Castlebar entrepreneur Caroline Joyce is in the news this week as the agency behind a new RTE series on au pairs, airing for the first time tonight.
Caroline’s company, Cara International, which she set up in 2001, is responsible for three of the four episodes of the series which features the experiences of families and au pairs when both parties come together in a family home.
Although the filming work is now done and dusted, Cara International is set to enjoy a major boost to its profile as a result of the series which will run every Friday evening for the next month.
“We’ve been working on it all year and the theme is showing what an au pair really is, the reality of having one coming in to live with families and the girls’ experiences on leaving their country of origin. A lot of agencies were contacted as RTE looked for families but because we’re quite a large agency in Ireland, we were able to give them the supply,” said Ms Joyce.
Different parenting arrangements are featured with a single mum, a Cameroonian family and a married couple in Dublin included in the spread.
“Au pairs are usually foreign girls between the ages of 18-25, who want to travel and work as part of a cultural programme to learn about other countries. We also organise for Irish girls to travel abroad and over to America. They are not nannies as such as they have no formal qualifications but they can do the babysitting and light housework while immersing themselves in the culture.”
Caroline from Turlough, whose sister Sharon Cameron is an environmental officer with Mayo County Council, began her au pair agency after finding it difficult to balance her own working life and motherhood.
“I found it difficult getting childcare that could come into the house particularly to cover shift work but an au pair provided the solution. The knock-on was that I also got involved in cultural programmes worldwide so we would deal with a lot of students wanting to see the world and travel with temporary work visas for business, hospitality, hotel and catering jobs in America and Australia. One of the biggest demands would be for the camp counsellors programme for kids activity camps in the US.”
Caroline quickly dispels the myth that au pairs are just for urban-based families on massive incomes. “Not at all, au pairs suit so many families, we even have two out on Clare Island!”
Cara International was originally set up in the GMIT Innovation Centre in Castlebar as the idea behind it and the website was very innovative at the time and Caroline recommends this start-up facility to other entrepreneurs who may be harbouring a novel business idea.
Part one of When The Au Pair Comes To Stay goes out at 7.30pm tonight on RTE 1.