Story of the Month
Hi Ho! Hi Ho!
It’s off to work we go!
Posted: 16th March 2017
Approximately one person in a thousand is a Deaf sign language user. As a result a lot of Deaf people tend to live in the larger urban areas so that they can meet with Deaf friends on a regular basis. However many of those who live in rural areas or small towns often don’t meet another Deaf person from one end of the week to the other. This can be extremely socially isolating for some Deaf people. Imagine not being able to have a proper chat with someone on a daily basis.
Our Story of the Month focusses on how a group of Deaf men in the West of Ireland got involved in a community project, and demonstrates how community spirit and cooperation can help encourage social engagement, learning and friendship!
Ballina Men’s Shed
The Irish Men’s Sheds Association was formed in in January 2011. Their mission is to support the development of the Men’s Sheds movement throughout the island of Ireland. They are a national grassroots organisation that strives for a future in which all men have the opportunity to maintain and improve their well–being on their own terms within their own communities.
Pictured tasking a break in the Ballina Men’s Shed are from left to right, Michael Lyons,
Tommie O’Hara, Sean McDonnell, Peter Price, Eamonn Judge and William Maughan.
The Ballina Men’s Shed project was initiated by Ballina Family Resource Centre, the HSE and the local Lions Club, and was officially opened in April 2012. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, and recently it got involved with a number of Deaf people living in County Mayo. This involved a collaboration between Ballina Men’s Shed, DeafHear and Mayo North East Leader Company, and resulted in a six-week DIY course in late 2016 in which six Deaf men from the area participated. The participants were Michael Lyons, Tommie O’Hara, Sean McDonnell, Peter Price, Donny O’Carroll and Pat Kildunne.
Learning DIY through ISL!
Seamie Rice from the Ballina Men’s Shed was one of the men who facilitated the group, along with William Maughan and Eamonn Judge. They worked with the assistance of an Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpreter. “We enjoyed every minute working with the group,” said Seamie. “At first it was a little bit scary because of the language barrier, but after the 6 weeks we had a basic understanding of ISL.”
The course objectives were to provide training in using tools safely, and learning some carpentry skills such as joint work, shaping, design features and finishing. The group used the course to complete a number of different projects that were important to them. One man repaired a crufix that had been broken since his scholdays, one made a bird house and another made a medal stand. But of course the primary aim of the project was to provide the Deaf men with the opportunity to be fully involved in a group, with the opportunity to communicate and chat freely with other members through sign language.
The comments of the participants bore this out: “I enjoyed meeting the other Deaf men and learning new things”, “They treated us well and allowed us to play pool...I hope we have more time there soon!”, and “the Men’s Shed welcomed us and thanks to Ciara for setting this up.”
[ L ] Tommie O’Hara hard at work during the DIY course.
[ R ] Donny O’Carroll hard at work with William Maughan from Ballina Men’s Shed.
The participants are eager go back to the Men’s Shed and to learn more! “I would like other courses through sign language, such as cooking, and Ciara is setting up a computer course for us” said one, while another said “I hope we have more time there!” Seamie adds “since the end of the DIY course it is heartwarming to see the lads from the Deaf Men’s group call in for a cup of tea or a game of pool. We use the signs that we learned and sometimes resort to wrting things down, but that’s ok! And all of the members at Ballina Men’s Shed are looking forward to working with this group again soon.”
Since the DIY course, Ciara O’Brien, DeafHear’s Community Resource Officer based in County Mayo has been busy organising a follow–up course. This month the Deaf men’s group began a computer course in conjunction with Mayo North East Leader Partnership – fully accessible with an ISL interpreter provided. And the group are hoping to renew their relationship with the Men’s Shed in the summer with a follow on course to further develop their DIY skills.
And in the meantime they will of course be calling in now and again for a cup of tea and a game of pool! Congrats to all involved.