CORK LIFE CENTRE has reopened its famous red door for the first time in months as it welcomed back students for a week-long summer camp.
The voluntary organisation, which offers an alternative learning environment to young people, has reopened on a trial basis in order to test the running of the centre ahead of reopening for the upcoming academic year in September.
Centre director Don O’Leary said that students were welcomed back “to see how the measures that have been put in place work and to bring down any anxiety’.
He said it was obvious the children were anxious but also delighted to be returning to the centre and that the week was about allowing both older and younger students to get familiar with their new school environment.
“A lot of the young people coming to us would suffer with social anxiety and it’s a bad time to have any kind of anxiety right now, we’ve seen this during the lockdown where the most vulnerable have been made further vulnerable, so it’s about getting them back in and also giving young people at the beginning of their journey here the opportunity to see how things operate on a daily basis without the hustle and bustle,” said Mr O’Leary.
Maths, woodwork, art, computers, and home economics are the subject choices this week, by the end of which each student will have completed an item to take home as a means to “build the belief in themselves and for them to know that they can achieve by making something in one week”.
Mr O’Leary said although significant changes had to be made to the workings of the centre in line with public health guidelines, staff are showing the students they are “all in this together”.
“All the books are covered and cleaned after use, every person got a container with their own stationery so it’s their own and they don’t have to share, but we’re trying to make it fun and make the strange things some way normal.
“Even for adults, wearing visors feels strange but we know it has to be done. All young people and staff are wearing visors so it’s a thing for all of us to do together and we’re all wearing the same visors so that we’re all in this together. We were laughing saying that we’re like a cheap remake of Star Wars with them on.”
Mr O’Leary confirmed Cork Life Centre will receive funding from the Department of Education as part of the €375m support package announced by the Government, after it was originally refused. He was told the centre did not qualify as it was not a school in a decision that has since been rectified by the department, which he said he “gives credit to” for doing so.
“I get fed up with our kids being knocked back. It’s annoying sometimes when they’re pushed aside, overlooked, or thought less of. Our kids are in education and when the Minister for Education says we’re making funding available to children in education that surely means every child in education.”
Mr O’Leary said he is “like a child” himself after reopening and that staff are “delighted to be back”.
“It’s been a long time out and having a bit of noise and banter and just seeing them is just fantastic, there’s nothing like it.
“Of course, there are worries but it’s about trying to ease those worries by ensuring everything is in place and ensuring that we can do what we do best, and what we do best is working with young people,” he said.
A total of 55 students are set to return to Cork Life Centre for the upcoming academic year.