COACTION provides services for 698 children and 161 adults across the whole of West Cork.
That’s the big picture. But if you take a closer look at any one of the towns in West Cork – including Dunmanway – you will find groups of cheerful young adults, who are not only learning new life skills, but also how to find their place in their community.
Enid Chambers, a local fundraiser for CoAction, explained how her son Damien (24) is learning lots of practical skills at the new hub for adults on Dunmanway’s Main Street.
Dave Miller, the hub’s rehabilitative instructor, described its effectiveness, saying: ‘If we weren’t here, there would be nothing for the young adults in Dunmanway – they’d be on buses every day travelling out to services elsewhere.’
The hub was actually established at the end of 2016 but it is only in the last 18 months that it has gained traction and now there are five young adults in their 20s who use it five days a week as part of the RT – rehabilitative training – programme.
Previously, these adults would have had to take two journeys by bus every day but now they do their courses, activities and support employment in their own hometown.
Dave explained: ‘It is like a stepping stone for school leavers. Using a set of practical modules, these adults learn living skills, boost their confidence, and get involved locally.’
The approach taken at the hub is a determined move away from a classroom setting so, instead of learning about money management while sitting at a desk, they might visit the local Money Advice and Budgeting (Mabs) centre.
The need for additional services for young adults is evident, considering that a lot of the special classes in West Cork schools are full to capacity.
When they leave school, there will be places, like the hub in Dunmanway, that will offer them a two-year RT programme to help them make a smooth transition to adulthood and more independent living.
The fact that locals are welcome to pop into the hub – which is near the town’s SuperValu supermarket – adds to the sense of inclusion.
Enid explained that generous local donations are currently being put to good use to double the floor space at the hub to include a working kitchen for teaching purposes, as well as better bathroom facilities.
For a town that doesn’t have a major industry, Enid said, it is amazing how much money the local community are willing to donate to support local services.
She said the kindness of the community in supporting everything from cake sales to CoAction’s club draw – which entitles a €30 ticket holder to enter 12 raffles – has to be applauded.
Locally-raised funds were also used to purchase a nine-seater bus for use in the Dunmanway area and having that on call is ‘marvellous’, said Enid.
It all fits in with CoAction’s motto, which is ‘to support people to live a fulfilled life of their choosing, to be active, connected and valued citizens within their community with access to the supports they require in order to sustain an “ordinary life”.’
Enid and her husband Reggie Chambers are delighted with the success of the hub in Dunmanway.
Reggie said: ‘For us, or for any parent of a child with disabilities, it is great that they can be in their home environment. And it is in keeping with the CoAction objective of providing a local service for local people.’
In the past, he said Damien would have had to be up and ready by 7.30am to get a bus, or two, to Clonakilty or Bantry, but now his start time is 8.30am and it’s just a short trip into town.
Since Damien started at the hub, Reggie said: ‘Every day he gets up with a renewed sense of purpose. He’s always up on time, with his backpack ready, because he just loves to go to work.
‘Damien has disabilities but he also has needs and the hub fulfils those needs. He is doing work locally and now feels a part of the community.
‘He knows everyone in town. And that works both ways because it gives local people an awareness of people with disabilities. It shows them their capabilities.
‘More than anything else,’ Reggie said, ‘if Damien’s happy, I’m happy. We never thought we’d see the day when he would be at this level.’