Thursday, 29 June, 2017

It’s brilliant to see my granddaughter and I start this journey together

Posted on October 24, 2016 at 04:26 PM

Carol DunneAt 59 years of age Carol has just started a Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) QQI Level 5 Certificate in Health and Community in Ballyfermot College of Further Education. Here she tells her story about returning to education with her granddaughter and how she hopes getting a qualification will help her to progress her career in the community and voluntary sector. 

Carol's Story

A bad road traffic accident forced me to leave school early at age 14, the road to recovery was long and I spent a year in hospital. As the eldest of 11 children none of us went to college, being from such a big family it just wasn’t an option for us. After leaving school my focus turned to family and working life; I reared four children and spent my time volunteering in my community with groups like the Ballyfermot STAR and my local church.

I’ve learnt a huge amount from my work in the voluntary sector over the last 15 years and it has really opened my eyes to local issues - I have seen the injustices that people face on a day to day basis. This has given me a passion to help others in my community and I am now looking to develop a career in this sector. I know that I’m good at what I do but like many others I lack the qualifications to back this up.

When I was bringing up my children there were very few family support groups and crèches were just too expensive. This was a real issue for families then and it’s still an issue now. It’s vital that families within communities have access to supports; this is something that I try and provide through my voluntary work. I know what it’s like not to have support or someone to ask for help, so being able to offer this to members of my community is really rewarding for me.

A friend recently suggested that I return to education so I could progress my career in the area that I love. My initial response was: “sure what would I go to school for at my age?” - I didn’t know about the available options and I always thought college would cost a fortune. Then when my granddaughter was in sixth year I realised that we didn’t have any information about college or grants. The school told me about the Access Parents Mentoring Committee that was being set up. I joined the Committee and got a wealth of information about different education options that I had never heard of before, like VTOS. I was surprised to learn about the range of different routes into education and I was able to share this knowledge with my grandchildren and other parents in my community.

My granddaughter and I have enrolled into Ballyfermot College of Further Education together which has been a really unique experience. I have just started a VTOS QQI Level 5 Certificate in Health and Community and I hope this will provide me with the qualification I need to get a job in the community and voluntary sector. I’m loving the course so far, I found returning to education daunting at first but when I realised there were other adult learners in my class and younger students didn’t bat their eyelids about my age, I could relax and start to enjoy myself.

I plan to do work experience after my course and hopefully this will lead to employment. It’s brilliant to see my granddaughter and I start this journey together and I am very proud of her. Most importantly I am doing this for me because I want to get the recognition I deserve after 15 years of volunteering in my community. When I was younger people would ask my dad about me and they would say: “how’s that daughter of yours who’s always trying to change the world” – I wouldn’t quite put it like that but I’m just trying to help as many people in my community as possible and make a real difference to people’s lives. 


If you have an inspiring learner story that you would like to share you can contact Karen Williams, Learner Supports Officer by email:, call 01 406 8220 or you can fill out our short learner story survey here:

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