Monday, December 08, 2014

Dusting off the blog - 6 months on

Well it has been a long time since I've written anything. Some of you may be happy about that while others have missed these rambling posts.
I never intended to stop or to take a break and it's not that I haven't had anything to say or there has been a lack of things I'd like to comment on.

Really it's been about a shortage of time and lack of head space to get my thoughts in order. The little baby has been turning into a little boy.

And figuring out how to be a parent has really absorbed all of my spare time.

So do I now all of a sudden have lots of time and can you expect lots and lots if witty and informative blogs?


Life is still busy and I'm still not that witty but I wanted to share some things I've learned over the last few months.

As you may or may not know I started a new role about 6 months ago with Don Bosco Care.

Now before I continue I want to be clear that this a personal blog and if I make any mistakes or don't quite get my head around an issue it's down to me and not the awesome people I work with.

Don Bosco Care does 3 things:
  1. Residential Care 
  2. Residential Aftercare
  3. Aftercare Support and Outreach
  1. Children and teenagers are placed in our care by the state when they are not receiving the care and protection they need at home. They come to our houses having had extremely difficult and often traumatic experiences and are cared for by compassionate, loving, expert social care workers who slowly, month by month, year by year rebuild the young persons damaged life so they have a chance to achieve their potential.
  2. When somebody has grown up in care and reaches 18 or so they can find it extremely difficult to adapt to the adult world. In the eyes of the state they are no longer a child and all the different care and supports they've had change or dissappear. In our houses they are supported through this transition. While they are studying we help them learn to budget, pay bills, cook for themselves and all the growing up things that my Mammy taught me about (even though I didn't listen - sorry Mam). This aftercare support is vital. The young people we work with have had reallly challenging upbringings and this can lead to low confidence, depression, isolation and even mental health issues. A helping hand at this crucial time can be the difference between somebodys life spiralling out of control or heading on an upwards trajectory.
  3. When a young care leaver moves on from Don Bosco or another service our aftercare and outreach team support them in the community. We advise them on social welfare entitlements, help negotiate with landlords, teach them budgeting skills etc. Anything we can do to keep the young person in a safe and secure home, accessing education if possible or to find work. 
In short: Young people who are in state care are walking a tightrope. They can have extremely complex needs and issues to work through because of their background and at anytime from early teenage years through to adulthood (and I mean mid 20's not 18) they can slip off that tightrope. If they fall too far their lives can be filled with depression, anger, addiction, loneliness and even criminality. But if they can receive a helping hand at the right time or if there's somebody there to catch them before they fall too far, no matter how many times they fall, then their potential is unlimited. 

That's what we do - reach out to help and catch you if you fall

Now that's a very long and complex explaination of what we do and I'm sorry about that. As a fundraiser I've been trained  to shorten it down and condense my cause and ask into an 'elevator pitch'.
Can I do it with this?
Well yeah I can but I don't want to and I'm beginning to think that we should stop trying to.

Some things are too important to be made into a catchy sentence.
To serious to be used as a carrot to encourage more questions and to be honest it's too easy to hide behind the slogan as a staff member rather than be willing to speak about and deal with the pain or horror that is really there.

If you're a cancer charity talk about cancer and the fear and pain it causes.
If you're a homeless charity talk about the cold and fear but also about the drink, drugs and violence.
If you're in development talk about children not having clean water but also talk about the corruption, religious biggotry and other less catchy topics.

BTW before you start saying that you can't explain all the detail on a poster I know that. I'm just talking as a fundraiser, as a non profit worker or as a volunteer we need to be able to give depth to our cause. If it takes 15 minutes to explain your work then talk for 15 minutes with passion, clarity and honesty and people will want to keep listening. Give them a catchy 20 seconds and they'll have tuned out after your well crafted exclaimation point!

Rant over
So I can't explain what we do at Don Bosco Care in a couple of lines and really I'm not qualified to give any kind of expert opinion but let me put it in the way that sticks in my head.

I sit and eat breakfast with my wife and little boy every morning.

Normally the radio is on - Newstalk if you're interested.

Every now and then there'll be a story about some child or teenager who has been the victim of horrendous neglect, abuse or violence in their own home.
Often their parents have addiction problems or are themselves the victim of violence and abuse but my mind is always on the kids.

And it's not 'how could they do that to their own child?' because I know that people can be ill, addiction causes all types of abhorent behaviour and it's too easy to point fingers at people in circumstances we could imagine ourselves in.

No, I find myself shouting - often at my wife  (sorry E) 'Somebody should have done something before now! How can they (don't ask me who they is) leave that child with that family? They should be taken off their parents!!

and then I stop

The story might haunt me for a few days and then I'll move onto thinking about other things.

What I never, EVER, thought about was this.

If the state does remove a child from their parents - What happens next?

Well in essence. For some of those children and young people

Don Bosco Care is what happens nexts.

Now this is by no means the forum to talk about the details of what happens next except to say that from my limited experience. If I was in the nightmare that some of our young people are in and Don Bosco Care was offered as a place to live I'd grab it with both hands.

Because I know I'd be cared for
and that I'd be cared for with love, compassion, intelligence, consistency and incredible skill until I was able to pick myself back up off the floor and rebuild my life.

I'm very proud to work here.

So that's the bit about the cause what about the ask.

Well that is simple.

The young people in our care receive some (quite rightly) by the state. But it's not enough. We are creating a safe, nuturing home environment for these young people. Our houses are staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the year by highy trained professionals and we don't believe that a roof and some food is enough to heal and nuture a hurt young person.
They need to engage in music, sport, hiking and outdoor pursuits so that they can develop their sense of self worth, overcome their insecurites and become independent young adults. They need to experience things that are easy for 'normal' kids so that they feel 'normal (i hate using that word) like trips to the cinema or theatre or beach. Occasionally we try to cook food from different countries so that they can start thinking about traveling in the future and where they'd like to go.

Our care is about the opportunity to achieve your potential - to be the best you you can be.

and we need money to do that.

If you think what we're trying to do is as important as I do and you are able to help you can make a donation here

ok, so that's enough for now. I've got lots more things in my head to write about and I'll try get to them over the next while but I won't promise anything.

If I don't see you or speak to you before then. Please let me wish you and everybody you hold dear a very Happy Christmas.


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