Thursday 22 February 2018

'It's great for older people to be able to Skype or do their banking online'

Saint Vincent De Paul centre manager Loretta Needham (in bib) and supporters raising funds in Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes
Saint Vincent De Paul centre manager Loretta Needham (in bib) and supporters raising funds in Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes

Ciara Treacy

It began as a centre offering educational support - but now it has become something of a social hub.

Services provided by the St Vincent De Paul (SVP) Croí na Gaillimhe centre give purpose to those feeling isolated in Galway city and county.

It first opened its doors on Mill Street in 2009 to provide help for those finding themselves socially or economically excluded.

It has since become invaluable to the people who depend on the centre's clubs and classes, with a continuous rise in numbers taking part.

"Our main theme here is reducing isolation," manager Loretta Needham told the Irish Independent.

"We have 95 volunteers across the different operations, including creative writing, knitting, painting, social clubs and a programme which teaches conversational English to migrants in the community.

"We also do a lot of work with direct provision hostels through our homework club - which helps 35 children in direct provision - and now we have a multicultural choir and a basketball team.

"The volunteers take pride in it. They enjoy the time and feel a sense of achievement, and the homework club gets great feedback from parents and schools."

One of Croí na Gaillimhe's strongest programmes is Young Hearts, an intergenerational scheme that links up Transition Year students with the elderly.

A lunch and social club also fills a gap in services for older people.

Transport is provided for those who are not mobile enough to make their own way to the centre.

"It's so important for older people to be able to learn how to use a mobile phone or to Skype their relatives or get help with banking, because they do feel disconnected," Ms Needham said.

"We had someone come to us in a panic about how to do an obituary because it's all online now - it's the simple things that we don't realise but they find it genuinely daunting. Some people are depressed at home and this gives them a purpose. Their families are also not under as much pressure because they know at least once a week the person will be at the centre."

The growing diversity in the population of Galway city has been seen as an opportunity for different groups to meet and learn from one another.

"Asylum seekers can walk through town and say 'Hello, Mary or Jim' because they met them through the service."

Irish Independent

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