A RESEARCHER has hailed the ‘spectacular progress’ made by a Castlebar-based children’s project and said its work was a model for other countries to follow.
“What’s going on here in Mayo is of international significance,” said Professor Howard Stevenson of the University of Lincoln. He was speaking at the open day of the Mayo Children’s Initiative) MCI, an organisation for young people living with domestic abuse and family conflict in Ireland.
His comments were echoed by the Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan, who told those involved in the venture: “Have big dreams, and I’m sure you’ll achieve them”. Emily Logan added that “the power of small projects” should never be underestimated, and had the capacity to change children’s lives.
The Ombudsman, guest speaker at the open day, said the proposed children’s rights referendum was the country’s ‘big chance’ to get the issue ‘right’. She said those behind MCI should ‘share your experience’ with the Oireachtas committee on children.
“Child protection is high on the agenda, but what’s not high on politicians’ agendas is child protection that crosses over the front door. In my view the attention on the third party abuser has received a disproportionate amount of attention. It is crucial that this public debate reflects the reality of children’s lives and that includes the sad reality that 20 per cent of children are subjected to abuse in the context of their home environment,” added Ms Logan.
Helen Mortimer, Manager of MCI, outlined her vision of Ireland ‘as a country where children can live free from violence and abuse’. She noted that MCI had worked with over 500 young people in Mayo since its foundation in 2009, and its ‘main emphasis’ was on ‘prevention and early intervention’
“We must first consider the possibility that it is happening in homes around the country and then recognise and respond to the abuse appropriately to ensure that the children in Mayo and throughout the country are protected by the adults mandated to ensure their safety. That is a responsibility for each and every one of us,” added Ms Mortimer.
Martin Waters of Castlebar St Vincent De Paul said he was ‘meeting children every week’ in his work. “Things were never as difficult … and it’s going to get worse,” he warned.
Jim Power, Chairman of MCI and co-ordinator of the Mayo County Childcare Committee, acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event.
The Open Day saw the first screening of a YouTube video on the issue, produced and directed by Transition Year students from St. Brendan’s College in Belmullet with support from MCI and the Galway Film Centre.
MCI also launched a new pre-school toolkit which is designed to accompany MCI’s sought after training for childcare practitioners which concentrates on self esteem building for young children.
In addition, MCI provides a number of intensive services to children who have experienced domestic violence. These include specialist art therapy sessions and a programme called ‘Feeling Safe’, which focuses on children’s sense of safety.
A parallel group for mothers or carers further facilitates the healing process for the child.
MCI can be contacted on 094 9286407 or firstname.lastname@example.org