Learning new skills at Bridgeways Family Resource Centre, Ballymahon
Longford and Westmeath Training Board (LWETB) hosted a series of online events over the last two weeks, in conjunction with community education providers across County Longford.
Learners celebrated both International Women’s Day on March 8 and the National AONTAS Learners’ Festival, March 1 - 5.
Thanks to the Mitigating Against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF), which was introduced by Minister Simon Harris TD last November, a much-needed financial boost has been provided to community education providers nationwide.
The MAEDF helped supply vital laptops and software for adult learners in County Longford to make the switch to digital learning, allowing them to participate in these recent online events.
International Women’s Day
Bridgeways Family Resource Centre (FRC) in Ballymahon was one such provider in Longford that was successful in their application to the MAEDF and who were awarded €7,750 in December 2020.
As part of International Women’s Day celebrations, a women’s group from Bridgeways FRC took part in an online willow workshop with Master Craftswoman, Helena Golden, from County Leitrim.
Known as the ‘Willow Woman’, Golden delivers weaving courses and workshops to make hand woven baskets and unique homeware using sustainably grown willow.
Grace Kearney, Bridgeways coordinator said “The ten laptops that we purchased from this fund are an absolute lifeline for the organisation and our learners. Many of the community that Bridgeways engage with do not have IT equipment whereby they could take part in an online educational course”.
One participant of the willow workshop, Breffnie Killian, went on to say: “I do not have a laptop or anything like that at home; I only have my phone but the screen is too small to do a course on. It’s great to be able to borrow a laptop from Bridgeways and be able to still do my classes online.”
AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival
The 15th annual AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival took place online this year to promote the importance of continuing adult and community education despite Covid-19.
The theme of this years’ festival was ‘Building Back Better Together #BetterTogether’ and saw a collaboration of members and organisations deliver an exciting schedule of online events nationally.
Adult learners from Longford Women’s Link, Lus na Gréine Family Resource Centre in Granard, and Longford Community Resources took part in online workshops on wellness, mindfulness and gentle movement.
These three community groups were also able to buy laptops, tablets and other digital equipment with the support of the MAEDF.
The wellness workshops were delivered by LWETB’s tutor, Britta Stewart Dolan, and explored helpful ways to de-stress through mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises and relaxing meditation, which were very well received by all participants.
All in all, the positive experience of the celebration and festival participants shows how the pairing of the proper resources with people’s enthusiasm to try new things and to learn in new ways, can mitigate against difficulties and barriers.
Any community group who would like to try some online learning, or plan for classes when their usual activities resume later in the year, can contact Longford’s newly appointed Community Education Facilitator, Conor Magrath on 085 856 2817.