Paula has seen many changes since joining the Prosper family
In this new Day in the Life series, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Prosper Fingal, we shine the spotlight on some of those enjoying prosper Fingal's mission
Paula Weir is Manager of Prosper Fingal's Rush and Piercetown services and has seen many changes in the disability sphere since joining the organisation in 1990.
'I get up at 6am on weekdays and I am in work at 8am. First thing in the morning I catch up on emails because I like to be able to meet and greet the service-users as they arrive. Later in the morning I do paperwork and prepare reports, but my door is always open.
'I like to go frontline as well - I am a frontline person. I pop in and out to different classes to see what they are up to. There is a great tradition in the cookery class in Rush where I have to be the first person to sample all the food. It is always very nice!
'In Piercetown, there are handovers with the residential houses each morning. Again, my office door is always open: it is not a manager away from everything but a manager in the middle of everything. You have the laughs and the jokes, you go into the sensory garden for a walk and a little chit chat and it is amazing the bits of information you pick up on those little walks or just sitting with the ladies who are knitting in the social area.
'I grew up around people with disabilities in Balbriggan and I was involved in bringing them on social outings through the Order of Malta. My interest progressed from there. I studied applied social sciences in college and I began working with Prosper Fingal (then the Fingal Workshop) in November 1990. Much has evolved since that time and today there is a huge emphasis on promoting a community-based approach.
'At the Rush service, about 75 per cent of the activity is community-based, so service-users are accessing the local gyms, doing their own shopping, going into town and deciding what they want to do. The person-centred planning process promotes the idea that every individual has a say in what they want to achieve.
I would like to see more education for the wider community on disabilities. To mark Prosper Fingal's 40th anniversary this year, the organisation initiated a project with local secondary schools. This project includes the Prosper Fingal Making a Difference Awards which honour students who promote inclusion and challenge disadvantage. The younger generation will help us get the message out there.
'The Rush service also has a longstanding relationship with St Joseph's Secondary School, which involves an annual collaborative performance. This year, service-users in Rush and the school's TY students performed 'Reeling in the Prosper Fingal Years' at the Millbank Theatre.
'In many ways, the students and our individuals are no different from each other - they all have to learn from scratch and they experience the finished product as a team. They seem to just gel after week three or four and it is as if they have always known each other. It is lovely to see that process and how hard they work as a team to get to the final production.
'In the evenings and at weekends, I switch into family mode. When the house is quiet and everything is done, I sit and knit. That is my relaxation. My work phone is on all the time, as you never know what could happen, but unless there is something specific going on, I don't dwell on work. It took me about 15 years to learn that skill!
'I am lucky in that I have two very dedicated staff teams. I have staff who have been with Prosper Fingal for many years and who have evolved with the organisation. I also have newer staff and that is good as well - I always like fresh eyes coming in because they see things you don't.
'I love coming into work and I don't think there is a day I haven't. Each day has its surprises and that's what keeps the environment young and vibrant. You learn something new every day - about an individual, an approach, or a new policy direction.'