Monday 24 October 2016

Local men reap what they sow in north inner city garden oasis

Marie Staunton with Peter Comerford and Edward Cleary (Picture: Steve Humphreys)
Marie Staunton with Peter Comerford and Edward Cleary (Picture: Steve Humphreys)

In the shadow of the ongoing gang violence that has rocked the north inner city, local people are continuing to build on decades of good work in the area.

This week, the Herald will highlight some of the projects and groups in the area that have a positive impact on the local community.

On the North Strand, the Pat Murphy Community Garden is tucked away from sight and has been created by local men looking to progress their education.

Former top model Marie Staunton is the horticultural trainer in the Larkin Unemployment Centre, and many of her students have gone on to further courses, including degrees, after training with her.

Current students Peter Comerford (32) and Edward Cleary (47) will soon finish in the centre and will move on to the Botanic Gardens and Killester College respectively.

"I did a few courses and this was the last one I tried. I didn't know anything about it and it has transformed me. I'm doing something I like, so we'll just see how it goes," Peter said.

"If you put the work in you get the results.

"I was made unemployed a while back and there was nothing out there, so I decided to do a few courses to keep myself busy," he said.

"It gives me the option to travel the world then with a qualification, so it's a chance at a better life."

For Edward, a third-level qualification was also something he never imagined for himself.

"I never thought I'd go to college at my age. I'm going to college now and, hopefully, will get work then - that's what it's about, it's not just for something to do, it's to get a job," he said.

The Larkin Centre runs a number of courses, including childcare as well as a men's health programme. They also offer information and advice on welfare and a creche service.

Manager Maria Tyrell said there is a high uptake in the area and there is also a high retention rate. People stay in their chosen courses and are likely to move into employment.

Education coordinator Anne Flannery said that getting men involved helps to break the cycle of poor educational attainment that is often intergenerational.

"Educating is the platform that will support people going forward in their lives. Without education you're going nowhere. It's important that opportunities like this are afforded to people in their own community.

"There are very capable people in the area, but they might not always have the opportunity to realise what they are capable of.

"This is another side of the community that people don't see," she said.

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