Thursday 17 January 2019

Raheen centre's 20 years of caring

For over 20 years Raheen's busy family resource centre has been a vital, go-to place where children, teenagers, adults and the elderly have found a home away from home and essential services. David Looby reports

Centre users at a class. Photos: Mary Browne
Centre users at a class. Photos: Mary Browne
Children at the childcare centre
Centre users at a class
Centre user Pat Quinn

For 20 years Raheen Family Rescource Centre (RFC) and creche has played a vital role in the communities of Raheen, Newbawn, Clonroche, Carrigbyrne, Adamstown and Cushinstown.

RFC was formed after a social audit carried out in 1997 identified a lack of childcare services in Raheen and the surrounding area.

Outreach development worker Bridget Kavanagh said: 'This created barriers to families trying to access education, training or employment. Funding was secured and a childcare facility was set up in a back room of the community centre in Raheen.'

Twenty years on the childcare centre today accommodates 85 children, while a sister centre in Adamstown caters for 30 children from early in the morning to 5.30 p.m. The centre's role has expanded over the years to encompass a plethora of services, from providing counselling support to children and adults, to a befriending service for the community's elderly, a Food Cloud service facilitated by Aldi and Lidl in Enniscorthy and the day centre, which has 30 clients.

In all more than 300 people benefit from services provided by Raheen FRC.

In its nascent days the centre had approximately 15 children, run by volunteers and a play group leader on a very small budget.

The centre grew and developed and a need for a purpose-built childcare facility was identified.

In 2000 the company was set up as a not-for-profit organisation. Meanwhile in 2001 the company applied to become a FRC under the Tusla funded FRC Programme, and was successful in its application.

The then management committee of Raheen Community Development Group Ltd. applied for and secured capital funding under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP). Construction started in 2003 and the building was opened in October 2004. 'The aim of the FRC programme is to combat disadvantage and improve the functioning of the family unit.

Each FRC operates autonomously working inclusively with individuals, families, communities, and both statutory and non-statutory agencies. FRCs are an integral part of the Child and Family Agency's Local Area Pathways model and act as a first step to community participation and social inclusion. The programme emphasises involving local communities in tackling the problems they face, and creating successful partnerships between voluntary and statutory agencies at community level.' Raheen Family Resource Centre is the only organisation of its kind that provides universal services and resources within the entire catchment area.

The FRC operates a Day Centre, an important social outlet providing a warm, friendly place for older members of the community to gather every Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m.

Manager Jeanette O'Neill said the Food Cloud initiative provided by the centre is second to none and is availed of by 35 families, so more than 100 people benefit from the service. The initiative was introduced last Spring whereby Food Cloud redistribute the stores' surplus food to charities within the community. Surplus food is perfectly fit for people to eat but cannot be sold for a variety of reasons (for example slightly damaged packaging or mistakes in ordering).

Ms O'Neill said the FRC provides a lot of back-to-education programmes for unemployed people including CV preparation, learning basic computers for beginners and a drop-in service for the long term unemployed.

The free counselling services are very busy and Ms O'Neill said people would otherwise be paying €50 for the service. There is an outreach counselling service provided to local schools, including Coláiste Abbain where two professional counsellors help students with anxiety, separation, bereavement and loss issues, while the primary school Rainbows Programme offers a nine week listening, group support programme for children following a bereavement or parental separation.

Speaking from the centre's pre-fab-like offices, Ms O'Neill said: 'We are looking for a premises. We would love to extend because the demand is there.'

The day centre and creche are funded by the Department of Children & Youth Affairs and the HSE.

The day centre's clients are picked up by bus and taken to the day centre where they spend around five hours engaged in different activities, including, chair yoga, skittles, cookery classes, exercise classes and bingo, and where they get a big lunch.

Good nutrition is at the core of the centre's Healthy Eating Project, with menus for in-house clients and people availing of the Meals on Wheels and catering services, benefiting from tasty, locally grown vegetables. There is a Community Garden out back where the local Horticulture Group can grow potatoes, leeks and other vegetables.

Other services include day trips, (including one recently to the Waterford Greenway), a chiropodist is provided and above all the centre provides a warm, friendly environment helping to combat loneliness. The Befriending Service also helps in this regard, whereby volunteers spend between 90 mniutes and two hours chatting with people living alone within the community.

Day Care Centre coordinator Moira O'Neill has worked at Raheen RFC for many years, saying she has seen first-hand how clients have benefited from visiting the centre regularly.

'They come out of their shell; even family members have rang in to say their loved ones are feeling less isolated and alone.'

MS O'Neill said: 'Without the staff, volunteers and the community support we wouldn't be able to provide the service we do. There is a long term staff here who know the community inside out.'

The childcare service caters for babies, pre-schoolers and after-school pupils, with the ECCE schemes facilitated.

23 staff and 26 volunteers run the centre and provide its services every Monday to Friday, while there are activites on weekends on occasions also, including the ever-popular kids' summer camps, which cost only €30 a week.

Jeanette can be contacted on 051 42880 for more information on Raheen FRC's many services.

Pat Quinn has been attending Raheen Family Resource Centre with wife Martha for over a year and says he 'wouldn't miss it for the world.'

The former coal delivery man who worked with horses for most of his life said he heard about the day care centre through some friends. Pat, 77, said: 'I play cards with them and they were telling me about how they had been going for seveal years and about how good it was. We were very impressed when we went along.'

Pat said the quality of the food and the changing menu every day is fantastic. 'The staff are out of this world. You wouldn't get the service and quality of food in the top hotels. When the staff see an old person they go out of their way for them.'

Pat enjoys playing bingo, quizzes and other games and has made new friends since going to the centre. 'I go every Wednesday. There are always different things to do and there is a really personal service.

'We are retired and you can go out there and meet up with between 15 and 18 people and you can talk to one another. We had a big outing in a hotel outside Wexford at Christmas which we loved, with dancing and music.'

Pat urged other elderly people in the community to avail of Rageen Family Resource Centre's services. 'There are an awful lot of people who should be going. The range of services is terrific, from catering and meals on wheels.'

New Ross Standard