Transition Years from Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai have been working with CoAction Bantry on a mutually rewarding project since last September
THE CPB mission statement speaks of ‘enabling students to contribute positively to their community’ and by working closely with CoAction on this initiative they are more than filling that brief.
As part of a project entitled Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, the collaboration originally started with a group of people who use CoAction’s services coming to the school to interact with the young people in Transition Year, primarily through participation in sports and games. What began with arts and crafts, basketball, table-tennis and gym work flourished to expand its scope to include a number of other activities and interactions. This culminated with the students helping with preparations for the CoAction Christmas Craft Fair held recently in The Westlodge Hotel.
Under the guidance of teacher Jacinta O’Connor, the students have been meeting up with the CoAction service users each week since the start of the school term in September. They had an initial session in the courthouse where both groups met and entered into a ‘getting to know you’ workshop. This allowed any barriers which may have been present between both groups to be broken down.
Subsequently the CoAction group introduced students to the games of bocce and bowling in The Boys Club in Bantry. The students were all ears as the rules were explained in great detail. Then teams were created – an equal mix of students and adults – and tensions were high as both groups really wanted to win. This proved to be a huge success and more importantly it was fantastically enjoyable for all concerned.
Another aspect of this collaboration between the school and CoAction saw the establishment of a ‘Feelgood Choir’ – a blended group of 12 TY students and six CoAction clients. In early December this choir entertained the people of Bantry town while raising money for Special Olympics. The choir then branched out into other elements of the local community – singing in Deerpark Nursing Home and to the patients of St Joseph’s Ward in Bantry Hospital.
A baking session was held in CoAction’s facility in Bantry and students and service users alike came together to make crispie buns, queen cakes and mince pies. The ensuing chat and cuppa made sure that there was scarcely a crumb left afterwards! On the same day Bernie O’Sullivan gave of her time to teach the gathering some dance steps – something which proved great fun for all concerned.
Speaking about the project recently, Dr Kevin Healy, principal of Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí said: ‘In our school, social cohesion is actively promoted through integrated educational methods so that the students traditionally viewed as ‘high achievers’ take classes with students from our dedicated special needs unit. This brings an immense benefit, for all involved, across a diverse and varied educational spectrum. We have been delighted to welcome our guests from CoAction and I would like to commend all of the students from the Transition Year 2 group and Ms Jacinta O’Connor for the positive contribution to the community made by the young people who have engaged with the programme and for enhancing the close links between our school and CoAction’
Just prior to the Christmas holidays Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai hosted a Christmas party for CoAction in the school. Everyone danced, sang along to Christmas songs and ate their fill. The obvious enthusiasm and feel good factor was a joy to behold and proved without doubt that this collaboration is, and will continue to be an unmitigated success.