Farm life offers new outlet for people with disabilities

A NEW educational programme which upskills farmers in Kerry to work with people with disabilities on their farms has been launched by Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin.

The programme is supported by Kerry Social Farming, Kerry County Council and South Kerry Development Partnership, through the Skellig Centre for Research and Innovation in Caherciveen, which is an outreach educational partnership involving University College Cork.

Kerry Social Farming is a project to facilitate adults with disabilities to visit and help out regularly on farms.

Farmers Pat and Breeda O’Connor, of Shronaree, the Bridia Valley, Glencar, with Social Farming participant Breda O’Sullivan (centre)

The initiative allows the participants to work with animals as well as learning farm skills and life skills. It also helps them become part of the local community and it currently operates on 19 farms in Kerry.

UCC and the Skellig Centre for Research and Innovation came together to offer a Certificate in Practice Support in Social Farming and the one-year programme will provide students with the skills to work with people with disability both on social farms and in a community setting.

For the past three years, Breeda O’Sullivan has been participating in social farming with Pat and Breda O’Connor, and she travels to the farm in Glencar every week to spend time with the O’Sullivan family and the animals on the farm.

“Rural Ireland has been getting lonelier and lonelier and as one thing after another closes, social farming has drawn our community together,” said farm host Breda.

“She has become part of our family and you just have to look at the scrapbook she keeps of her visit here to see how much it means to her”.

Minister Griffin visited a participating farm in Glencar before the official launch of the course at the Skellig CRI centre at Cahersiveen Library.

“The government is committed to supporting rural communities and Skellig CRI is a great example of how targeted supports by government can make a real difference to a rural community,” he said.

Kerry County Council Chief Executive, Moira Murrell, said the project reflects a new use of the national Town and Village Renewal grant supported by local funding.

“It is a means of regenerating rural areas through innovation and collaboration by the partnership of the local authority, third level education and the community development sector has proven very successful,” she said.

Pictures: Valerie O’Sullivan. Click on individual images for details

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