I started in WALK as a teenager to get Community Involvement hours for the Gaisce award with a couple of friends. 20 years later, two of us are still here and I’m Team Leader in our Residential Service managing three houses.
When I first came to WALK, it was as a volunteer in the social club (evening centre), we got to practice our DJ-ing, pool and tea making skills while getting to know everyone. Respite weekends gave us a chance to get to know people better and gave me a mini snapshot into what it was like to support people in residential.
After 3-4 years volunteering, life took me in other directions but I never forgot about WALK. I decided to re-skill in 2009 into social care, with an eye on coming back. In 2010 I started volunteering in WALK day supports and also did one of my college placements there. This helped me land a role in Community Inclusion. I started out supporting one person 8 hours a week, and built from there. Before I was finished college, I was pretty much full time, supporting three individuals in community inclusion and onto the relief panel for both day and residential.
I look back at this as a great foundation to my role now, and to see how valuable it was to be able to adapt across the services. I got to see different management and communication styles. It gave me an insight into other people’s roles and an appreciation for what goes on in different parts of the organisation along with the wide-ranging supports and interventions. Also it gave me the chance to get to know a lot of staff and people we support which still has an impact today.
When I finished college, I went straight into a full time position in residential and ended up working in a location I had not worked in before. I soon realised just how different it was to be full time rather than relief. I got to know five people and their individual support needs. I enjoyed the new skills and training that I was given and I took on becoming a key worker for the first time. I also put myself forward to be the location representative at the Health and Safety Committee.
Over the years I’ve been asked to join or put myself forward for a number of committees and positions and I also helped out with the community events in Drimnagh castle when I could. One of my favourite roles was when I was a Staff Representative, this gave me a much greater idea of things that were going on across the organisation and the different challenges people we facing both on the ground and as managers. I linked closely with other staff representatives, who worked in different parts of the organisation, and also had meetings with our senior management team. These meetings gave me insights in to what was going on ‘behind the scenes’ but that we didn’t necessarily hear about day to day. My role was to feed that information back to the staff as a whole and to get their feedback.
Management in the residential area I was working had changed and evolved and over time I had been given more responsibilities. I was also given opportunities to grow in my career through utilising the performance development system. I took every available opportunity to do training and worked hard to apply my learning back to my workplace. I’ve been supported and encouraged throughout my whole career, at all levels – including at a Christmas party one year when I was asked why I was not a team leader yet, followed by a pep talk!! I got the confidence to apply for a team leader role. I’m in the job two years now and we’ve just opened a third service and hopefully a fourth will be following soon.
Over the years somethings for me have remained a constant - the ethos and values that I have seen and experienced for the people we support. I’ve always felt very lucky to have happened upon WALK. The way we support people to live their lives is something unique that I’m proud to say I’m a part of this and it is something that I will always strive to make the highest priority in my little part of WALK”.