Project Manager, Fatima Groups United
Diploma in Community Work and Youth Work, 1989
Masters of Applied Social Studies, 2012
Being from Dolphin House, third level education was for others, not for us. Before college, l was involved in the Rialto Youth Project, where Jim Lawlor believing in me encouraged me to go to college.
After graduation l worked in Youthreach and Blanchardstown which particularly grounded my practice, before returning to Fatima in 1997. This return, coinciding with the birth of my eldest child had a profound effect on me. I saw Fatima as an insular community with a huge drugs issue, the most problematic housing situation in the country and that for young people to have a chance, things needed to change.
I became manager of the Family Resource Centre in 2001 and being from the community I got a lot of access. The initial focus was on building foundations and ensuring the regeneration of Fatima happened successfully. We had the freedom to use a community development approach which, given the context, was very important. Now we offer a wide range of services and programmes but it is community work that underpins our work, gives us a framework for thinking critically and addressing the issues on the ground.
Going to college gave me the chance to get a job as a community worker. I got a lens for understanding the world, the local context and the importance of collective action informed by the values and principles of community work. I met a lot of great individuals with very different life experiences to me and we learned a lot from each other. One of my placements in Ballymurphy, West Belfast was a real revelation. A professional community work education provides you with a framework for understanding the issues and a collective community work approach for working with communities to bring about change.