Joint National Co-ordinator Community Work Ireland
Higher Diploma in Community and Youth Work, 1994, Maynooth University
My job as joint national coordinator of CWI involves work in a wide variety of settings and on a broad number of themes, issues and policies from responding to the Covid crisis to the current challenges in relation to Ukraine, international protection, responding to the emergence of the far right in Ireland and developing responses to the climate crisis – all from a community work perspective.
It provides me with a bird’s eye view of these and may other issues and concerns faced by communities and community workers working with them including poverty, racism, social exclusion and discrimination on a range of grounds.
Since graduating from Maynooth I have worked as the first Co-ordinator of Galway Travellers Movement, as Co-ordinator of the National Traveller Women’s Forum and as Head of Development and Outreach with the National Women’s Council. All of these roles leave me in no doubt that standards and professional education are extremely important to equip and support community workers and consequently the communities they work with to meet the complex and varied challenges they face.
My work is informed by the community work values which remain a core element of the programme at MU. Working in solidarity and collaboration with communities and community organisations has always been important for my practice, never more so than in my current role. I strive to work collaboratively and ensure that our responses are based on the values of human rights, equality, collectivity, empowerment, participation and social justice.
I strongly recommend professional community work education. It gave me many things including a clear analysis of the structural causes of poverty, inequality and social exclusion, and a space to reflect on how the current challenges facing society impact on marginalised communities. I had first-hand experience of placements with professional community workers and opportunities to develop an analysis of the issues facing communities including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, disablism and of how these interact. I also connected with others and made many friends and contacts with those sharing my values and commitments.
The skills and analysis gained through professional education are transferrable whether you are working in a community development setting, in a state agency, academic setting or government department, what you learn through community development education will undoubtedly stand to you.