The Raphoe Family Resource Centre (FRC) “is the glue which holds our community together,” Charlie O’Kane of Raphoe said Friday, at an information session on FRCs that was held for Donegal Dáil deputies and councillors.
Charlie, who has Parkinson’s Disease, said the centre has been important to him, his wife and their four daughters, three of whom have intellectual disabilities.
“They regularly attend support programmes and activities at the centre,” he said. “This has been a huge benefit to both my wife and me, knowing that they are in a safe environment and being treated with dignity and respect, and being encouraged to learn essential life skills.”
Charlie paid tribute to the centre’s cross-border Speaking Up and Reaching Out group, and said the group had given him the confidence to address a large audience. He said he would not have been able to speak before the large crowd at Friday’s meeting without that experience.
The Raphoe centre has also provided Charlie with information on rights and entitlements that have helped the whole family, he said.
“Family resource centres are not a luxury,” he said. “They are an essential for the whole community.”
Ann Roulston said the Speaking Up group gave participants the confidence and self-belief to speak up for themselves and others.
“The service the resource centre provides to people with disabilities is excellent,” she said. “Up till now I never really said what I wanted in my life, or challenged things which I didn’t like”.
Recently, she said, “We visited Stormont to tell the MLAs what changes we wanted. This would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the Raphoe Family Resource Centre and their brilliant staff.”
“I didn’t take money from a bank or take out a loan I can’t pay back, so why should I and other people be punished for the mistakes of others?” Ann said. “Let the people responsible for this mess have things taken away, not innocent people like me and people who need the Family Resource Centre.”
Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin TD for Donegal South West and one of the Donegal deputies at Friday’s meeting, said that Donegal FRCs will lobby Leinster House in June.
Referring to Ann’s description of the Stormont meeting, Deputy Doherty said he would let other politicians know, “if you think this is going to be an easy meeting, you’ll have your work cut out for you”.
See page 10 for more on the family resource centres’ information day.