By Mary Hopkins
A small country town, circled by even smaller country villages, where heads remained bowed under the banner of isolation and where women lived with the hope of, one day, being able to get up, get dressed and again take their rightful place in the world of gainful employment.
A poster appeared. At first only one, but then more and more, with an invitation to Move On! I and no doubt, others like me, dared to stop and read. It all appeared too good to be true and it was free!
Will I qualify? At my age? I got back in my car to go home. I tuned to Radio Kerry. Lisa Fingleton was being interviewed on the very subject of Moving On. A sign from above, I said aloud and pulled over to listen and change my life.
What resulted was the trip of a lifetime.
My fellow participants and I were taken to the very edge of our comfort zone and then encouraged to break through our self-induced boundaries and head for the hills.
At any one time, the diversity of this group, aged 20 to 70, from Nigeria, India, Russia and Lixnaw, with a broad spread of Educational attainments, abilities and disabilities, were welcomed, accepted, comforted and supported, as each one emerged from the shadows, on their Moving On journey.
In the early days, each story was softly heard, honoured and secured in confidentiality. Participants who were, as yet, unable to unburden, grew to appreciate the ethical ethos that prevailed.
These highly skilled approaches, especially to survivors of conflict zones and those living with mental health disorders, did much to aid these vulnerable participants in finding their voice and having found it, to speak their pain.
Discreet enquiries were made about those who were missing meetings and their return was always warm and accepting. Their sense of belonging was again assured and the team leaders and fellow participants waited and hoped for their deliverance from the sad circumstances of their lives.
Fun, and a sense of freedom began to emerge, as this gathering of women began to re-ignite the fire in their souls. Invitations to share in their River of Life journeys, showed that, despite their current disadvantage, a wealth of human experience and a hope of better days prevailed.
These findings were the flicker of hope that was tenderly nourished to produce the flame that lit the way forward for each emerging working.
The excitement of the first job interviews, carefully coached and the joy on the faces of those securing that longed- for place in the land that is employment, sustained those in waiting.
The opportunities afforded Moving On participants in Tralee, were worthy of being termed “life changing”. From Computer Technology, with The Institute of Technology, Tralee to producing a live programme on Radio Kerry, these women who dared to dream employability, took each challenge to heart and supported each other in making their dreams reality.
Another dream was revealed.
The most humble.
The most shy.
The hidden talent of our group, sang, live on air and filled the Kerry Hills with a voice so pure and clear and we gathered, from a discreet distance, as she emerged from the offices of Radio Kerry, all curls and glowing with happiness, to meet with her first ever date.
Statistics will vouch for the employment success for this group.
The Story behind the story tells how we got there.
Thank you Lisa Fingleton.
Thank you Lisa O’Flaherty.