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Thursday 8 December 2016

Making a difference in Mayo

Western passion has locals enjoying their lives

Jim O'Brien

Published 10/08/2010 | 05:00

Through Brendan Boland's hard work, and that of his 10 workers, the Mayo Community Services Programme at Knockmore is providing older locals with a chance to participate in an activity or two, make use of minor healthcare services, like chiropody, and chat with others
Through Brendan Boland's hard work, and that of his 10 workers, the Mayo Community Services Programme at Knockmore is providing older locals with a chance to participate in an activity or two, make use of minor healthcare services, like chiropody, and chat with others
Through Brendan Boland's hard work, and that of his 10 workers, the Mayo Community Services Programme at Knockmore is providing older locals with a chance to participate in an activity or two, make use of minor healthcare services, like chiropody, and chat with others

THE LOCAL community hall is often the most underused and unused facility in many localities. These buildings were built by communities in the days when everything was locally based, from entertainment to social services.

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The advent of mass home entertainment and the professionalisation of many local services has rendered many of these buildings redundant. The idle hall is often a barometer indicating the health and vibrancy of a community.

If Knockmore Recreation and Resource Centre, located between Castlebar and Ballina in Mayo, is a barometer of the health and life of the local community, then Knockmore is in good shape. On Tuesday mornings, the place is a hive of activity. A busload of older people arrives on the rural transport bus for a day that will include a meal, an activity or two, minor healthcare services, such as chiropody, and a lot of chat. This day out is precious if you spend most of your week alone.

The kitchen is bustling as meals-on-wheels are prepared and a mixture of volunteers and workers get ready to deliver them to the isolated and the housebound around the area.

Managing all this is Brendan Boland, a committed community activist who regards himself as lucky. He gets paid for doing what he is passionate about.

"All this is possible thanks to the Community Services Programme [CSP]," says Brendan, who manages 10 part-time and full-time workers employed under the scheme operated by the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs.

"Under the programme we offer a range of services and supports to older people and isolated people in the community. We also bring life to community centres such as this great facility in Knockmore, and we improve the quality of life for the whole community."

Brendan says that the CSP benefits the 'givers and the receivers'.

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"The people working on the programme have been out of work but are now employed by the project. They are proud of the contribution they are making to the community and they have a few more bob in their pockets to spend in the locality."

Like every Government- funded programme, the CSP has been cut. Along with managing the Knockmore CSP, Brendan is chairman of a network of 30 CSP projects in Co Mayo and represents them on the national network of CSPs.

He has an appreciation of what the programme is offering to the whole county and is conscious of its vulnerability to cuts on a local and national basis.

"Last year we lost €20,000 from a budget of €150,000 we got from the Department. That is a huge loss to us and to the local economy."

To illustrate this, Brendan refers to a study undertaken in Mayo that calculated the value of the CSP to the local economy throughout Mayo.

"We established that, for every euro the Government spends in the CSP it generates €5 for the local economy. We get €130,000 from the Department and we have a turnover of €250,000 generated by fundraising and other sources of funding. Our loss of €20,000 is going to work out as a loss of more than €70,000 in real terms."

Brendan points out that while the contribution of the CSP and programmes like it to the local economy in terms of increasing spending in the local shops and post offices is calculable, its contribution to the quality of life of the workers and those who benefit from the services is immeasurable.

"Along with meals on wheels and the day-care programme, we also run a contact programme where we phone older, isolated people on a weekly basis to check up on them and chat with them. You cannot calculate the value of that."

Brendan is obviously anxious about the future of the programme and its funding but he hardly mentions that. What he focuses on is the service they offer, the things they do and the differences they make.

"On September 10 we are having a day of national celebration for CSPs in every county throughout the country. That day will attempt to show the country what this programme is doing.

"I think it is vital that we tell people what we do and show the difference we are making."

Irish Independent



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