New start for Laois charity

LAOIS Down Syndrome have been enjoying their new headquarters in Abbeyleix for the past few months and are getting set for a celebratory launch which will take place on Saturday June 23 at 2.30pm. The launch, which is taking place in the headquarters in Gortnanoir housing estate, will be attended by both the president and CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland, as well as the nearly 60 families who are involved with the Laois Down Syndrome organisation.

LAOIS Down Syndrome have been enjoying their new headquarters in Abbeyleix for the past few months and are getting set for a celebratory launch which will take place on Saturday June 23 at 2.30pm. The launch, which is taking place in the headquarters in Gortnanoir housing estate, will be attended by both the president and CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland, as well as the nearly 60 families who are involved with the Laois Down Syndrome organisation.

The group acquired the headquarters from Respond Ireland late last year and their new building is state of the art with a fully equipped kitchen, three small rooms, one big room and enclosed outside space. Chairman of Laois Down Syndrome Michael Gorman spoke to the Leinster Express and told of his delight with the new building.

“Funding is everything but the general members row in behind. This launch will show all the members what we’re about. Abbeyleix is fairly central in Laois and is a heritage town with lots going on in and around it. We are about inclusion and integration and want to get children involved in the town.”

Already the group have organised fundraising events such as a family fun day in Ballacolla, bag packing, coin collections and a church gate collection. They emphasise that all money raised locally goes to local services.

The organisation is well established since its formation in 1997. At the moment there are 57 families and a number of new members have had babies recently. “Great work has been done over the past couple of years and we implemented structures including officers and a committee. The support is there from members but we are drilling into people to look to the future, we need a solid structure. We have a cradle to grave philosophy,” said Michael.

“Huge thanks have to go to the people who started the organisation and to those who worked so hard over the years. We have a good long term plan now and have a fair idea of where we are going and what we want. At the moment there are difficulties with SNAs and respite, major changes seem fairly imminent. Parents and end users don’t seem to be getting enough information,” he said.

Jason Delaney, a resident support worker from Respond also spoke about the relationship between the two organisations. “We are about community involvement and the facilities here being utilised. We are flexible with each other, and the relationship is informal so we get things done. We are constantly working and doing new ventures. We work with community groups and local partnerships trying to merge. We’re constantly looking at breaking new ground.”

Already the building is being used for committee meetings and seminars as well as a Saturday club, which takes place once a month. As well as this the group hopes to organise discos in the future and utilise the members’ talents.

“It is a godsend that the building is here and is disability friendly with state of the art equipment,” enthused Michael.

Committee member Una Byrne is also delighted with the new facilities. “Before this there was nowhere to go for therapies, now we have somewhere clean and warm. This is going towards the young people, and it is the start of something that can be built on. It is great to set down a base.”

Una said the group is hoping to make use of the garden soon. “At the Saturday club we try to keep it educational, it is about the importance of interaction and helping to maintain connections with each other.”

“We have achieved a lot in the past two years,” agreed Michael. “We have a fantastic management committee and everyone has roles and responsibilities. Everything is documented. This is also an inclusion organisation, with members with autism as well as children with other additional needs”.