On a bright but very cold Saturday in February 2015 Respond College students from Cork and Dublin, currently enrolled in the Certificate in Community Studies Programmes, took part in a field trip to the Respond Gleann Na Bearú estate in Bagenalstown, County Carlow.
The Certificate in Community Studies is a QQI-HET Accredited Level 6 (30 credit) Special Purpose Award. The Certificate is designed to explore concepts of community and community development within a social analysis framework. The programme introduces learners to key technical and analytical skills that support and encourage participation within a community setting. An integral part of the programme is site visits and this was the third fieldtrip for the students.
Both Dr. Lorcan Byrne, Programme Leader, and Kevin O’ Farrell (MSocSc) Education Officer from Respond College Dublin, felt that it was of paramount importance for the students from Cork and Dublin to get a sense of what an integrated estate looks like and how they work in practice. Philip O’ Reilly, Respond National Co-ordinator of Services for Older People, started off by giving the students a background to the estate and then proceeded with a walking tour highlighting the various housing schemes and community development initiatives within the Gleann Na Bearú community.
Patrick Cogan, ofm, Respond CEO, was also in attendance, and gave the group an overview of the work that Respond carries out throughout the country and focused on the importance of good design when building communities. Pat then focused on the various models of community work and drew from the theories of Paolo Freire.
In the afternoon, Lorcan spoke in great detail about the history of social housing and community work in Ireland and the various models in place throughout the country. The students were then asked to focus on the themes of the aforementioned presentations and participated in a World Café style workshop based on the theme of community planning. The World Café format was particularly successful in getting both the Dublin and Cork cohorts working collectively, drawing from their personal and professional experiences, their studies and newly gained insights, to explore what is necessary for contemporary communities to thrive and flourish.