By Stephanie Kenny-Quinn
I joined Supporting Communities, or NITAP as it was known then, after my university friend Laura O’Dowd called me and told me to apply for the Liaison Officer post. She thought my talents weren’t being utilised in the Western Health and Social Services Trust. My interview panel was Brian, Colm and Hilary (not daunting at all!) and my first base was to take the seat of Laura, previously Ryan Black, in Callan Bridge, Armagh.
Having completed my housing degree, I thought I had all the skills necessary – how wrong can you be… I quickly learned that a cup of tea starts most community meetings (which I don’t drink!), a photo opportunity might get you a councillor or two, and community representatives work very hard for free.
Engaging with the communities in all areas of Armagh gave me a great basis for my next role at Supporting Communities when I became the Training Officer after Ryan Black moved on to work in the council. Before he left, he told me I’d make a great teacher, not such a fabulous trainer! Perhaps he was being prophetic without even realising – I have since qualified as a teacher and work within the Education Authority!
I will always remember Supporting Communities for the great friendships, travelling once a month with Julie and Karen, then Sally and Anita, to the staff meetings in Ballymena, sharing the good, the bad and the fabulous from our community groups, and supporting each other through some of the tougher times and laughing together.
Supporting Communities was there when my role changed once again as I became a mummy, and Brian, always thinking family friendly, allowed me to go part-time. He even let me leave for a few years and welcomed me back when he was short staffed in the west.
One of my proudest moments was watching members of the Carrosyl Community Group speak at the Community Conference about their achievements. One of my saddest was saying goodbye to Karen Brewster when she passed away. She was a true lady and began Carrosyl’s journey with them. It is fitting that her picture hangs in their community base.
Community volunteers are so vital to make society work and I was always proud of the support that we as the Supporting Communities team gave at all levels, championing and advocating on the community’s behalf, and helping them to make things happen.
The skills I developed through working at Supporting Communities, such as creating relationships and advocating and engaging with communities, are all still relevant to what I do now as a School Improvement Professional in the Education Authority.
I am always proud to read about Supporting Communities’ achievements and love to catch up with the staff to hear all the news.
Congratulations on this milestone - here’s to the next 40 years!
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