Wexford woman Annette Walsh has been named as one of the Rehab Group's Staff Champions.
Annette, who is a Programme Facilitator with RehabCare at the Whitemill Industrial Estate, packed in a successful publican trade to pursue her passion of social care support.
'I packed it (the pub trade) in. I felt I really didn't have much of a purpose in life and knew I needed to do something else other than run pubs.
'I always wanted to work in the nursing or social sector. After finishing school at 17, I departed for England with that intention. While I was there I volunteered with a social club for people with disabilities. But after a year, I yearned for home and gave up the dream of becoming a nurse. When I returned I joined the family pub trade.
'I'm from Rathangan, a rural part of the county. In 1989, I set up a club in the parish for older people to get them out of the house and socialising in the community. It was a new concept at the time, we held weekly social gatherings, public meetings and holidayed around Ireland.
'It was a huge success and went on for 21 years. I got a real sense of achievement and purpose. One Christmas I was at a loose end and packed in the pub trade. I got tired of working the anti-social hours with no purpose.
'I then decided to join the Rehab Group on a Community Employment (CE) scheme in 2003 and was later appointed as a Programme Facilitator. I knew that this is where I needed to be. When I left the pub trade, college never came into my mind.
'But in 2007, I was supported by RehabCare to complete a degree in social care and graduated three years later with a sense of achievement that I have never felt before. I was able to bring that learning to the RehabCare centre here in Wexford.
'I've been here 13 years and I've never had a day where I've been bored. All of the time you want to try and bring something new to it. When I look back on when I first joined, things have progressed so much in social care over the last ten years. I'm privileged to have the opportunity to work with people who have physical, intellectual or mental disabilities. When I achieve certain goals with people, be it big or small, I get huge job satisfaction.
'I remember one of the people who uses Rehab service coming to me saying that he had a dream of going to Lourdes, but he had a fear of flying. Somehow we managed to bring him to Waterford Airport, let the experts talk him through the process of flying, from the moment you check in a bag to disembarking. We then booked him on a short flight from Waterford to Galway so he could get the experience of flying a short distance. This all resulted in him achieving the dream of spending a week in Lourdes.
'That story is one of the highlights of my career, when you turn somebody's dream into a reality and give them independence. The most challenging part is the fact there are not enough hours in the day to support people individually.
'I have a job that I really enjoy doing, from morning to the evening. I might go home tired, but never bored or in a bad mood, no two days are ever the same.'