The benefits I have gained from returning to education as an adult have been life changing both personally and professionally and I have developed a passion for lifelong learning that I never knew I had. My education helped me to understand how the work I was already doing in the community had a greater impact on the individuals I came in to contact with than I had initially realised. Working with women in the community and creating a craft group in the centre helped with isolation, loneliness, creating friendships and a support network that helps with mental health issues and developing good wellbeing.
“How can I adapt some of these global issues identified and the solutions devised to help deal with matters locally?”
The assignments and projects I had to complete as part of my coursework in college while studying Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Level 5 in Community Development and Youth Work, and QQI Level 6 in Advanced Social Studies and Advocacy, led me to research different issues related to sustainability. This led me to think, “How can I adapt some of these global issues identified and the solutions devised to help deal with matters locally?”
Niamh described her involvement with a Community Garden in Newcastle
Newcastle Community Garden came about after residents took part in a Willow Weaving Course we ran in the Newcastle Community Centre, funded by the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB). Students asked if I could get a gardening course for them to take part in. I collaborated with KWETB again and we found a tutor. The course was called “Basic Horticulture Part 1.” From this, we realised the importance of the hands-on experience that is needed with gardening so the idea for the community garden was born. I secured funding from Wicklow County Council and donations from Newcastle Residents Association to build raised beds on the grounds of Newcastle Community Centre. I have also worked with residents in the Direct Provision Centre in Wicklow Town and they do not have facilities to cook their own food, let alone grow any. I combined the two projects so residents from both Newcastle and the Direct Provision Centre can come together as one community to “Grow, Cook, Eat,” Newcastle style. This helps to address social inclusion issues while also combating Food Poverty and educating the community on how to stop Food Waste and how to grow their own food.
Niamh discusses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) I am most passionate about are the first two – SDG 1, No Poverty and SDG 2, Zero Hunger. I want to become an advocate for Food Poverty and educate communities on how they can grow their own food and feed their families, cook healthy meals and prevent food waste in a way that is affordable to all.
“I want to become an advocate for Food Poverty and educate communities on how they can grow their own food and feed their families, cook healthy meals and prevent food waste in a way that is affordable to all.”
This leads in to SDG 3 in Agenda 2030, “Good Health and Well-being.” Growing your own food and working with soil helps to develop good mental health. Eating healthy leads to feeling better and that leads to good well-being.
Another SDG that interests me while working with communities in my local area is SDG 4, Quality Education. This can be achieved by working with local government agencies and organisations to run education, training courses and classes that are available, accessible & affordable to all residents in the Newcastle area.
While studying to become an advocate not only to help eradicate Food Poverty, I have also promoted Social Inclusion and worked to develop Newcastle as a diverse and multicultural community..
This story is shared as part of AONTAS’ July 2021 campaign to highlight the role lifelong learning plays in achieving social, civic, environmental and economic sustainability. This relates to one of three goals listed in the AONTAS Strategic Plan 2019-2022. Look out on our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates on campaign activities. We appreciate your likes, retweets and comments. For more information, please email Emma O’Kane, AONTAS Social Media Officer at: email@example.com.
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