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Kathleen McCrea
We're just like a family


Kathleen, who is 43, has been working in Austin’s cafe for twenty years. A former boarder at Foyle View, she now lives in Ardavan House, a semi-independent living facility in Derry.

“I really like Ardavan,” she smiles. “I’ve been here since it opened, twenty-three years ago. The carers are very good to us. Every day we get breakfast and dinner together – sometimes chips for a treat.

“There are twelve of us in the house – we’re just like a family. We normally go on holidays together, but last year, one or two didn’t feel up to it, so we voted to cancel the trip. We didn’t want to split up the group and we opted for days out instead.

“The helpers at Ardavan [key workers] are great; Anne Marie, Christine and Paddy. And we have meetings to discuss things like the menu and food, safety training and any concerts or nights out we’d like to organise.”

Ardavan is one of several semi-independent homes for people with learning disabilities in the Derry area; there are others at Belmont, Trench Road and Hazelbank. The facilities tend to be highly transparent, with each client retaining a charter of their rights on the back of their apartment door. There are also regular snap inspections.


Kathleen has travelled extensively with the Glenn family, who have acted as her guardians for 40 years.  But she has a phobia about escalators, which made a recent trip to London quite challenging.

“I can’t get on them,” she explains. “And in London they’re everywhere. So it meant we had to travel about by bus – and sometimes by taxi as we couldn’t use the underground.

“I don’t mind lifts so much. In fact, I once helped a woman who started to panic when we got stuck in a lift. But escalators, I don’t like at all.”


Kathleen’s experience of the education system was very positive. “I loved Foyle View. It was great craic. I learnt to read, learned to count, and we would sit in circles to listen to stories – or even watch TV sometimes.

“I also was allowed to go and collect the boys [the Glenn’s young sons] from the Model School and bring them over to Foyle View.”

While at school, Kathleen developed a love for needlework and crocheting – and she spends many hours of her spare time making birthday presents and christening garb.

“I just love going into wool shops,” she smiles. “Anything you need knitted or crocheted just let me know.”

Her involvement in Destined has really broadened her social horizons. And it has also helped her educational development.

“I’ve learned a lot about money management, from Catherine and Colm. And we sometimes use computers, which I enjoy a lot.

“I’ve been on holidays with the group; it was great fun. We do the rambling on a Sunday – and I really like it when Ronan brings the dog. And Dympna and I go to the pictures on Friday nights sometimes with the leaders and other times by ourselves.”

“I have been involved in doing fundraising for Dr McGinley and his son Ciaran in the Foyle Hospice for the last twenty five years. This has included taking part on all the walks and also attending the formal dinners. I intend to continue raising money for the Hospice as it is a worthy cause.”



[See also: George Glenn interview]