On the Road with the Community Education Network: Henrietta Adult & Community Education Service (HACE)

29 Aug 2023
In May, Lorraine O’Connor, our Community Education Officer, made a site visit to Henrietta Adult & Community Education Service (HACE) Henrietta Street in Dublin.

A longstanding member of AONTAS and the CEN, HACE is a dedicated community education provider, offering a variety of education programmes and activities for adults in Dublin’s North Inner City. 

They provide about 25 part-time courses, most of which are held in the evening. Courses vary in duration and are one evening per week. They also run a weeklong summer school each July. This allows people to sample some of the courses on offer throughout the year. 

Members of the drama group at HACE
The types of courses on offer include Art, Computers for Beginners & Improvers, Computers for Over 55s, Cooking on a Budget, Crochet, Drama, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Flower Arranging, Hand-Knitting, Irish for Fun, Job-Seeking Skills, Personal & Interpersonal Skills, Sewing for Beginners, Spanish for Holidays, Stress Management, and Yoga. 

HACE’s mission is to work with individuals, families, and the wider community in North inner-city Dublin to promote a fair and just society by educating and supporting people in reaching the goals they set for themselves. For my visit, I wanted to get a feel for the work they do and meet the staff and learners. I had the opportunity to sit in on some of the classes and meet the learners.  

 Some of the men from the Wellbeing Group at HACE

One class that struck me the most was the men’s wellbeing course, where men from the inner city came to meet and socialise. I was warmly welcomed by the learners and spoke to them as they were playing snooker, but what struck me was the sense of solidarity shared by this group. I asked what attending their programme meant to them, and they responded with such passion.  

One learner said:

“We don’t feel we belong anywhere, but we are welcomed here, and we learn how to take care of ourselves, and we all know each other, and we feel we belong and know no one judges us. If we weren’t here, we would have nowhere to go, we don’t fit in, and we really want to get jobs, but we can’t. I am not sure where I would be if I didn’t have here.”  

Yvonne, the interim manager, told me that some of the men who started off doing this wellbeing programme went on to do another programme afterwards. The horticulture tutor was playing snooker with the men and introduced the topic in a very informal way. It was a clever way to get the men interested in horticulture programme and have some learning while doing a fun activity.                                                                           

As I spoke to the learners in the drama group, the same sentiment was reiterated, that sense of community and belonging. This group had learners who had only arrived in the country in the last number of years, and they spoke about the welcoming atmosphere.  

Speaking about doing programmes in HACE, one woman said:

“Once you start you just want to do everything and its great, you learn lots and you meet so many people and make so many friends.”  

It was so clear to see how proud they were of their play and were happy to act out scenes and allow me to photograph them. 

Lastly, I spoke to the ESOL learners. This was an interesting group and comprised of learners from nine different countries. They were only at the start of their journey and many of them had only basic English. But they said that they were enjoying learning and that it helped them feel like they belonged.  

Yvonne’s passion for HACE and the learners was evident. My visit reminded me of why we do our job, and why community education matters. At the heart of community education is the learner, that sense of belonging, the love of learning, and community. It creates a place in our society where these learners become valued as active citizens.  

Community education matters and we need to ensure it is retained, valued, and promoted across the island of Ireland and beyond.  

This blog is being shared as part of our #PutYourselfOnTheMap campaign, raising awareness of our new interactive map of community education centres and groups across Ireland. 

We want to tell everyone: Community Education is Here. 

Click here to find out more about our new Community Education Map and #PutYourselfOnTheMap today!

 This campaign is part of AONTAS' 2022-2023 project "Inclusive Recovery and Transformation: Adult Learning Post-COVID-19", as part of the New European Agenda for Adult Learning.