A fantastic €10,251 was presented to the Raphoe Pastoral Centre Children’s Counselling Service yesterday by Sarah-Marie McDevitt of Pinehill Studios and organisers of Dance Addictions 2018.
The annual dance competition raises funds for local charities each year, and the Pastoral Centre was chosen as the beneficiary of 2018 to support the community children’s project which is seeing an increasing demand for its life-changing services.
Volunteers at the Pastoral Centre near St Eunan’s Cathedral have been providing counselling service in Letterkenny for the last 20 years. Thanks to a surprise donation in November 2016, they were able to answer the need for children’s counselling, but more is needed to bring the service to schools.
€800 was donated to the centre from a Darts Fundraiser in memory of Hugh Simpson-Callaghan, an Inishowen schoolboy who died suddenly at the age of eight.
The donation kick started plans to create ‘Hughie’s Corner’ – a sanctuary for children to speak to professional counsellors.
Within a month, there were 48 children on the waiting list. In January 2018, there were 21 new referrals of children over 5 years and 36 teenagers. That’s over 50 young people seeking support from a team who all work on a voluntary basis.
The integrated counselling team of 12 caters to a broad range of needs, 5 of whom are trained to work with children. The centre operates on a shoestring budget of just under €23,000 per year.
“It’s the people who drive it forward,” Liam Cannon, Director of Counselling at the Pastoral Centre, told Donegal Daily.
“The people that are here are volunteering for one reason only. It is because they see the difference they are making. They are very good people and the team is very carefully selected and we have people with various skill sets in different modalities of counselling.”
The multi-disciplinary and multi-denominational team take in a growing number of referrals from schools, GPs, social workers, mental health services and the church. The centre is open to everybody and there is no limit on the service.
“There is a perception sometimes that it belongs to the church and is a Catholic organisation. It does belong to the church, but counselling and any of the services here are open to anybody from any denomination.
“Anybody who comes through the door is asked to donate, some can, some can’t. We turn nobody away,” he said.
The children’s counsellors have 6-9 years of training behind them. Despite this, they are all volunteers and all administrative work is also voluntary.
“We can’t continue to expect people to volunteer at that level. Everybody here is coming from a purely therapeutic background. That is important because it is a quality of service you don’t get anywhere else.”
Issues that children present with include bereavement, separation, anxiety, while adolescents attend sessions to help with low moods, low confidence, bullying and isolation. Health issues can affect young people’s mental health also, and they present difficulties which require counselling.
It is hoped that the next step will bring children’s counselling into local schools for convenient and undisrupted sessions. At present, children come to the centre in the evenings, which means both the counsellors and parents must travel to the centre at nighttime.
“This is a major project and while we have started we have a lot more work to do. One of our main issues is the cost in sending counsellors out to the various school.
“Our aim is to be able to supply counselling to as many schools as possible as we believe that early intervention can prevent issues emerging later in life,” Liam said.
The plan requires support and funding, and it is hoped that through Transition Year fundraisers and local organisations, such as Dance Addictions, it can become a reality soon.
“We were fortunate that Pinehill Studios, Sarah Marie McDevitt and Aggie Boylan put a huge amount of work into Dance Addictions. We were delighted to be the charity chosen this year to avail of the funds raised.”
For more information on the Pastoral Centre Children’s and Adult counselling services, visit www.raphoepastoralcentre.ie or contact the team on Facebook: www.facebook.com/The-Pastoral-Centre-counselling-service-474651162902799/Tags: