BEING creative for the good of society is the aim of Cork Community Art Link, which has been up and running for the past 28 years. Debbie Lahive is a volunteer with the community arts organisation, using her artistic ability to bring joy to Cork’s society.
The organisation works with people to create a sense of community identity and collective pride enabling people to learn more about themselves and the world around them while having fun.
Debbie, 33, has been involved with CCAL for the past two years.
“I grew up on Church Street and I was always fascinated by the Dragon of Shandon street parade every year.”
Debbie used to stand outside her parents door, watching the parade (which began in 2006) and always wanted to get involved, but didn’t know how.
When the mother of one had a little bit of time to spare, she looked into volunteering with CCAL, which has a hub at The Lido in Blackpool.
“I went into The Lido and never looked back," she said. "I fell in love with the place. I loved it.
"There is a fantastic group of people and it is very rewarding. Your time is never wasted as you’re constantly learning and meeting people from all backgrounds and all while working towards a positive end goal.”
Debbie said she never thought being creative and artistic was something she could be involved with.
“I’m not extremely arty. I always liked arts and crafts and I’ve done bits and bobs with film and photography, but that's all.”
Debbie said the group were very welcoming and she enjoyed the work she was doing there.
“They don’t rush you and they let you figure things out yourself or do things the way you want to do them. There are deadlines and there is plenty advice, but generally speaking, they are very accommodating.”
The CCAL volunteer described The Lido as an exceptionally welcoming environment.
“I look forward to going, it's like a home away from home with a real sense of community there," she said "It's always a pleasure to go in, such friendly and helpful staff volunteers.
"There's always something new and exciting being created and to learn, see and be involved/participate in and witness the end product is very rewarding.”
Debbie was involved in sewing costumes and making floats for the Dragon of Shandon parade in 2020 and said it was a wrench when coronavirus meant it was cancelled
“We had fantastic plans, we had everything ready to go and it was all cancelled due to the lockdown," she said. "We had made magnificent things from basic materials. It was a real pity.”
Debbie believes she has gained a lot from being a part of the CCAL community.
“I’ve learned lots in regards to learning new skills and not to limit yourself and I’ve met some very interesting people from all walks of life and learned some valuable outlooks from them also.”
The mother of one said if she had known about the organisation as a teenager she would definitely have gotten involved at that time.
“It is very worthwhile and the work we do is needed," she explained. "You are using your time in a very productive way.
"There is a sense of accompaniment after every finished project.”
Since the pandemic, Debbie said things have really changed with the classes for children and individuals with special needs postponed due to Covid concerns.
“It's been difficult not being able to pop in to create and socialise with The Lido clan. There was a very strong sense of community and all walks of life and people from all over the world are usually involved.”
Despite this, Debbie said everyone has been kept going with online alternatives that allow the volunteers to be creative in their own homes.
“They have thought of very innovative ways to keep creating and showcasing during the lockdown, with the Halloween and Patrick’s Day installations around the city. Plus they put up tutorials and opportunities for everyone to get involved creatively, virtually on their website."
To get involved or to find out more about the charity, log onto www.corkcommunityartlink.com