A Community Touches Hearts

Community groups across Waterford are continuing to support the Touching Hearts charity in its quest to raise funds for a new Sacred Heart Centre for children with varying degrees of physical and learning disabilities.community

IT’S OFTEN said that charity begins at home and the people of Waterford have certainly not been found wanting when it comes to supporting their own homegrown charities.This is something which is particularly evident with the ongoing support being shown towards the Touching Hearts charity which is striving to raise funds in order to construct a new Sacred Heart Centre.The centre, which is currently located on Lady Lane, was established in 1974 and was originally under the auspices of the Irish Sisters of Charity, but was taken over by the HSE in 2005.

It supports families of children who have varying degrees of physical and learning disabilities and is assisted by the Friends & Family Association which was set up in 2006.
The main function of the Sacred Heart Centre is to empower children with a broad range of intellectual and/or physical challenges and their families to develop to their full potential in a safe and nurturing environment. This is achieved through the provision of an Individual Family Service Plan for children attending the Main Early Intervention Service.However, the lack of space impacts on the provision of services and multidisciplinary team work. For example, one small therapy room doubles up as a toddler and play group room which means equipment has to be moved to other areas which is very time consuming. The building also lacks appropriate facilities for hosting parent and staff training.Further limitations include the amount of staff that can be employed and the capacity to take in new referrals for children needing early intervention.
Access to the centre is also difficult as there is only one small carpark for families, staff and buses.

The centre lacks quality equipment seen in other early intervention centres and the outside space where the children play is also insufficient for their needs.
The aim of Touching Hearts is to create a new, modern centre which is well-equipped to deal with the needs of all those who attend and which will include a range of services such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy etc. under one roof. This will mean parents will no longer have to drive between buildings to access services. Many different local community groups, as well as local businesses, are supporting the charity in their endeavours.
Portlaw Village Wheelers recently embarked on the mammoth Four Munster Airports Challenge in aid of Touching Hearts, while the charity has also benefitted from well-established events such as the Michael Power Memorial Swim which is held at Kilmurrin Cove on Christmas Day each year. EirGen in Waterford have chosen Touching Hearts as their charity of the year, while Touching Hearts has also received significant support from Lake Region in New Ross.

Dermot says all of these local events help spread the word about the efforts of the charity. Gaultier ICA is one of the latest groups to support Touching Hearts.
Of all community groups, the ICA perhaps perfectly encapsulates all that is good about communities and working together.The aims of the ICA are to provide a welcoming and fun organisation which offers support, friendship, personal development, education and live long learning.Members regularly learn new skills, participate in local charity initiatives and get involved in their local communities.Although Gaultier ICA may be small in size (with around 13 members), the guild punches above its weight according to stalwart Mary O’Neill. New members are always welcome and Mary is delighted that some new members have recently joined. “We always like to have new members who bring new ideas. We are a laid back, fun loving guild,” she explained. She is encouraging new people to come and learn skills while also imparting their knowledge of their own individual skills.“I can teach people how to sew, others can teach how to knit. You can do your own thing, have a laugh and a cup of tea. It’s very informal,” said Mary.
The small East Waterford guild has been staging a charity sale for the past 16 years which has generated around €24,000 to date.

The event has received huge support from the local community since its inception. The first such bring and buy type event was held in a small room in The Saratoga in Woodstown in aid of Special Olympics Ireland. “We want to thank all the people who help us and who have been supporting us for the past 16 years,” said Mary.
This year, their event raised €1,300 for Touching Hearts.

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