Shining a light on Cork project

A new book reveals how Shine’s Basement Centre in Cork city is helping out people on a daily basis. MARY HASSETT finds out how the book came together.
Shining a light on Cork project

GREAT READ: Sheila McMahon, Shirley Healy with guide dog Nitro and Kevin Collins, enjoying their copies of the book ‘Beyond Words’, launched last week.

FRANK O’Sullivan goes to bed happy every night knowing the welcome that awaits him the following day in Shine’s Basement Resource Centre on Washington Street.

Shine is a national community based organisation that supports people affected by mental health issues.

It can be hard to put into words the sense of belonging, empowerment and support that comes with being part of the Basement Resource Centre.

However, over the past year, members, staff and students took part in a creative writing project which aimed to do just that.

The group carried out the project with the help of Education Training Board tutor, Kathy D’ Arcy and so productive was the venture that the individual contributions have been turned into a book titled Beyond Words, which was launched by John Saunders, Shine CEO, in the Central Library on Grand Parade last Thursday.

The launch featured some of the contributors reading from their work, as well as musical entertainment and refreshments.

“The members wanted to create a book so that they could share their poetry, creative writing and art work with a wider audience,” explains Bruno Nicolai, development worker with the Basement Resource Centre and chairman of the Creative Writing Committee.

“The launch will be a celebration of achievement and of working together, as well as highlighting how beneficial creativity is to people’s wellbeing.”

Some of the members, like Frank O’Sullivan, wrote personal accounts of their lives and background while others tried their hand at creative writing and poetry under the skilful guidance of Kathy D’Arcy.

“We got funding for the project from the National Lottery through the HSE North Lee Community Development team,” says Denise O’Reardon, Co-ordinator at the Basement Resource Centre.

Shine are very grateful to Ronnie Dorney, Mags Creed and all the HSE staff for their ongoing support.

The book is available free of charge at the Basement Resource Centre on Washington Street.

Another creative project that the Basement Resource Centre is very proud of is the Green Ribbon garden, located on Kyle Street, which links North Main Street with the Coal Quay.

Last year, Cork City Council provided Shine with a disused lot on which to develop a display garden on a short term basis. The garden is thriving thanks to the gardening and building skills of Basement Resource Centre members and staff.

It now has its own vegetable plot and herb garden, while the tall echium plant there from the Canary Islands is attracting a lot of interest from local people who have really embraced the project.

“We call it the Green Ribbon garden to promote positive mental health,” says Colette O’Connor, Development Worker, Basement Resource Centre.

“But it is not just for people with mental health issues. It is for anyone in the community who wants to be part of a beautiful gardening project.”

At present, the Basement Resource Centre is looking for a gardening volunteer who would be willing to work with members and staff on developing the garden at a pace that suits everyone.

Members of the public can go along any Thursday between 2pm and 4pm if they are interested in getting involved.

“The garden isn’t perfect and that’s the way it should be as it is a working garden,” says Colette. “It’s not about the final product. It’s about getting out there and working together with everyone working at their own capacity.”

Basement Resource Centre, I4a Washington Street, tel. (021) 4226064, see www.shineonline.ie

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Extract from Michael O’Mahony’s story in the Beyond Words compilation.

“I was the king of messers in school. I was always down the back of the class laughing and joking with my friends Gary and Paul. We were great pals and hung out together all the time. They were out for the craic too. We had fun together.“We used to dare each other to speed down the hill by the bike shed. If you missed the turn you could crash into the railings or the wall. We got a good few cuts and scrapes but we just laughed it off.

“In the winter we really got serious on the bikes. We would use our back wheels to skid on sheets of ice without our hands on the handlebars. I can still remember the rush of excitement, the shouts of encouragement from the lads and the long walks home still giddy from the day of fun.”

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Frank O’Sullivan was also one of the contributors to the book entitled Beyond Words. The following is an extract from his contribution, called My Story.

“I go to bed every night with a smile on my face, as I know I will be welcomed in the Basement Resource Centre the next day.

“I joined in November 2006 and I spent my days there. I have made many friends over the years, and I enjoy the conversations and company of such lovely people.

“My closest friend is Julius. He is from Lithuania and we look out for each other.

“I still miss my mother. I lived with her and cared for her my whole life, until she passed away 13 years ago at 94 years of age. I keep her in my prayers every night.

“I love my life now. I get great guidance and help from the staff here at the Basement Centre. We always have something to look forward to. We go on outings and have great plans for the year ahead.

“I live my life with faith in God. I want to thank Denise (O’Reardon), Colette (O’Connor), and Bruno (Nicolai) for the great kindness they have shown me over the years.”

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