Engage’s Con Collins on ‘The Why’

21st Feb, 2020

A big aspect of my role at Engage is explaining how the third sector works to the uninitiated, including how people who work in the sector tend to be motivated differently than in the for-profit environment.   What makes them get up in the morning is the value they know their role adds to the quality of life of their service users. Charity beneficiaries can include some of the most vulnerable people in the community, people who have been excluded from opportunities most of us take for granted every day. Those exclusions can take many forms.  Sometimes it’s others’ attitudes to disability.  Other times it’s down to a rough start in life.

The best part of the job is going out to visit CO3 members on their own turf.  Watching them do their vital work helps keep us grounded, and reminds us of our own mission – to make sure that third sector leaders are as well-equipped as they can be to navigate their organisations and their service users through an environment of ever-changing demands and resourcing.

I recently visited Lizzie Dixon (Manager) of Camphill Mourne Grange who kindly gave me her time and a tour of the impressive site for which they provide supportive and purposeful community life for people with learning disabilities. The beautiful scenery compliments the facilities on offer such as Northern Ireland’s oldest registered organic farm with its own apple orchard, coffee shop, bakery and chapel to name but a few.

Mourne Grange not only supports people through activities such as crafts, music and drama but it also has its own health and therapy centre. 54 residents currently occupy its households living together in a warm, safe and secure environment.

During my visit, I met several of Camphill’s residents. David who has lived there for 36 years showed me his weaving skills. In the bakery, Ned from Tipperary was kind enough to remind me of their hurling dominance compared to my native Co. Clare, and Karen who was preparing for a cover photoshoot for a cd of music she created that reminded her of her late father.

Much work is still in progress and plans are in place on how to improve and develop the services Mourne Grange offers to its residents. The most notable feature I took away from my visit was the smile on everyone’s face I had met and their friendliness towards me.

The hard work put in by charities in Northern Ireland, in this case, care services for people with learning disabilities and other support needs are incredible and when you see the difference and impact it has on its beneficiaries it must give the organisations providing the services immense satisfaction.

Thank you, Lizzie, for inviting me. The bottle of homemade apple juice didn’t last long in my house!

Con Collins, Engage

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