Above: Timo, native Maori Robert Parata and Shane performing the Haka.
It’s over 40 years since two mothers from Bantry, Mrs Peggy Lynch and the late Mrs Mary O’Grady sat down one morning over a cup of tea and started the journey to creating CoAction West Cork, which provides quality services to support children and adults with an intellectual disability and autism.
Since its inception, CoAction West Cork has assisted so many individuals to find and nurture their gifts and talents, discover the joy of learning, reach their full potential and develop their own futures.
Mary O’Brien meets some exceptional people at the Rehabilitation Training programme in Bantry.
The Rehabilitation Training (RT) programme run by CoAction at St. Goban’s Further Education and Training Centre in Bantry provides three years of training for people on completing their school education. Participants in the programme receive skill training in various areas and take classes in life skills, personal development, literacy, art and crafts, social and recreation and computer studies.
After completing the RT programme, Gordon Moxley from Drimoleague, has continued with his art studies at CoAction. Gordon has painted prolifically since childhood and is never happier than when he has a paintbrush to hand. Although with no formal artistic training, Gordon’s work echoes the symbols and imagery of ancient cultures. “I like painting, I’m happy when I paint,” he says. Now working on a weekly one-to-one basis for the past year with artist Tom Welds, Gordon’s work is reaching new heights. Tom has introduced Gordon to the work of other artists and provided him with a space to paint and Gordon has had the opportunity to exhibit his work at the West Cork Art Centre in Skibbereen and at Organico Gallery in Bantry. Gordon sold 12 pieces of work at the exhibition in Bantry. He is one of the featured artists in the Christmas exhibition at Organico.
“With many artists, the mind can get in the way of the work. Gordon appears to be remarkably free of that problem,” says Tom. “He works as if each piece he’s working on is the last thing he’s going to do in his life. In other words, he paints and draws straight from…well, where? The heart? The soul? Certainly not the mind. And he works fast, with a kind of inner force that I can only observe and envy.”
Sharon is the assistant instructor on the RT programme, which runs from 9am to 4.30, Monday to Friday. “We cover everything from horticulture to life skills like cooking and personal finance to employment skills like computers and CV preparation and providing work experience in different areas,” she says. “Some of our students have been accepted on a Contemporary Living course at UCC. The Certificate in Contemporary Living seeks to support individuals with intellectual disabilities in developing core skills required for participation in contemporary society and to do so in a way which promotes lifelong learning and inclusion in a third level environment.
Timo and Shane are participating in the RT programme. Both lads are passionate about sports and jumped at the chance last year to learn the Haka from Robert Parata, a native Maori. Shane and Timo gave a powerful performance of the Haka to the Bantry centre. Shane is also a big fan of Liverpool and when he’s not keeping fit, Timo enjoys listening to Robbie Williams and Michael Jackson.
Nothing ever goes to waste at the Outline workshop in Bantry town, a CoAction group where participants are always busy upcycling or restoring to create wonderful unique creations. Under the guidance of group leader Nobby, everything from furniture to fairy houses has been skillfully produced. “It doesn’t matter how outlandish the idea, we just go for it,” he says. “Our most precious resource here is having the time to look into the potential of objects and how they can be used.” Old lawnmowers, bits of engines — everything is reused in the creative process. Some of the projects have included creating signs for the Drimoleague Walks group and at present a sculpture in conjunction with the Coomhola Borlin Men’s Group. “The sculpture is being made out of window frames and car hub caps,” says Nobby.
“It’s a real organic way of working and everyone has found their niche,” says Nobby. “Some enjoy the metal work, while others prefer painting or finishing work.”
For more information on the services provided by CoAction visit www.coaction.ie.