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VIEW, Issue two, 2012

to overcome

A STAR performance

NICVA’s training team gained a great boost recently when its Big Lottery funded learning programme for Destined was awarded a STAR award at a ceremony in Dublin.

The AONTAS STAR Awards showcase teamwork and award recognition to adult learning organisations, forming part of an Adult Learners’ Festival.

The entry was based on the delivery of a Big Lottery funded four-day bespoke ILM accredited learning and development programme for Destined, a support organisation for people with learning difficulties based in Derry.

Aimed at helping Destined's directors and management team develop the skills needed to perform their duties as the decision makers for the organisation, the training has resulted in eight individuals achieving an ILM Level 3 award in Effective Management.

Roisin Kelly, Skills Development Co-ordinator at NICVA said “I am so excited that this programme has won a STAR award, for NICVA but also for Destined.

“They have all worked hard for their accreditation and deserve recognition for all their hard work. Five of the group took part in the shortlisting presentation for the award, and did an excellent job. I am really very proud of what they have achieved.”

Lucy Gollogly talks to a remarkable young woman who is a founding director of a charity that helps people with learning disabilities

Róisín Doherty has used her experiences of growing up with Asperger’s  syndrome and cerebral palsy to help other people with learning disabilities. The 30-year-old spoke to VIEW about the fulfilment she has found. As a founding director of the Derry-based charity Destined.

Like most young women, Róisín Doherty enjoys a full and varied life. She is married to Gary, a mechanic, and the couple enjoy “the usual kind of things” – nights out at the cinema and their local The Phoenix, as well as walking their dog.

But Róisín has had to overcome more barriers in life than most people. She grew up the eldest of four children in a loving and supportive family, but she still struggled with her disabilitiesand the attitudes of other people.

“With Asperger’s it takes you a while to learn stuff – it took me a long timeto learn maths and English and it’s difficult to make friends sometimes becauseof my communication skills,” said Róisín, speaking from Destined’s busy office in Derry city centre.

“With cerebral palsy, you get noticed in the street for walking a wee bit differently. “It’s hard to explain to people too, because they don’t see the person, they see the disability.”

Róisín attended Foyle View School and later Belmont House Special School in Derry. Quiet and shy, she suffered some bullying and isolation. “At school I had a couple of friends but not very many. “Because I went to a special school myself, it wasn’t as bad as it was outside school. In the street, a lot of people saw the ‘big bus’ and judged you.

‘Sometimes people judge the learning disability before they see the person’

“You get a hard time because of it, and you want to explain to people what it’s like, you want to try and make friends, but it’s not possible sometimes. Sometimes people judge the learning disability before they see the person.”

As well as her parents, who Róisín said “made sure everything was going well in my life”, she credits one particular school friend, Ciara, with helping her to overcome her shyness. “She brought me out of my shell and made it a bit easier for me. I’ll always remember her being there for me,” she said. Gradually Róisín’s confidence grew and after leaving school she completed a number of courses in the North West Institute, gaining NVQs in business.

The Derry woman has worked for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the Housing Executive, Marks and Spencer and an accountancy firm. But it’s through her involvement with Destined, which was founded by a group of parents including her father Dermot O’Hara that she has really blossomed.

“Working at Destined gives me a lot of satisfaction and when I’m helping people I think: ‘I’ve done a good deed today, I’ve supported people’. I feel good inside that somebody else has had a bit of help and they’re happy with the support.”  

Róisín said the educational and social activities offered by Destined have had a huge impact on clients' confidence and independence. “When some people come in they're so quiet. There are people now who atthe start would have phoned their mum to come and collect them from Destined or leave them down. But now they walk to Destined and back up again, so they’re getting out. And there are people going out at night who wouldn’t have before.”

One of the charity’s aims is to help people with learning disabilities break down the barriers to employment.Among its key initiatives is Access to Citizenship, which was voted Best Health Project in 2010’s National Lottery Awards. The scheme aims to help people with learning disabilities fulfil their potential and participate fully in society. Róisín said more of this type of support is needed to get people with learning disabilities into the workplace. “I’d like to see a lot more people being able to get jobs, and even if they need a wee bit of support they should get that. Then after a while they’d be able to do it themselves.“I’d also like to see more housing for people with learning disabilities so they can live out on their own more.”

For all her confidence and articulacy, Róisín says she still gets nervous when she meets new people, and has to tell them about her disabilities.“At first I might be a bit quiet, and then after a while I come out of myself when I get to know people.”But one person she never feels self-conscious around is Gary. “He just sees me as me.”