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About Gerard Costello::
My name is Gerard Costello from a farming and business background in the rural village of Monivea in Co. Galway. I have experience in volunteering on various projects in my community for over 20 years. I worked in the sales and manufacturing industry for over 20 years as a designer of fitted furniture. As a mature student I achieved a B.A. in Community and Family Studies in N.U.I.G and now work as a Community Alert Development Officer in the Western Region for Muintir na Tire.
Contacting Gerard Costello:
You can see Gerard’s work on Muintir na Tíre
By Gerard Costello
When I read the request from Congregation, ‘we want to hear how people see, experience or what they think of “Community”, be it a personal one, business or career transition’. I have to ask, in what Text is the word Community been talked about. I looked at the word in relation to the work I’m involved in which is, the Development of Community Alert. I looked at the word Community from my community experiences. As part of this mind mesh of thinking sharing and connecting I draw on the history and experience of Muintir na Tire and I still haven’t found the quick fix when it comes to Community. On hearing a statement, words have different meanings so much so they were the breakup of a person’s marriage, this has resulted in me questioning and defining words a lot more. When it comes to Community I still question, try to define and I still haven’t found what I’m looking for when it comes to an easy way to establish and foster Community within society.
My perspectives on community comes from my experience as a volunteer on a Community Alert Programme for over 20 years along with volunteering on other community projects. My learning about people, educating around committee roles, devising to move forward, inclusion as part of equality, leadership and guiding in partnership with others is very rewarding. As a Community Alert Development Officer for Muintir na Tire supporting and advising groups for the past six months has highlighted the various Community structures, opinions and Community needs relating to the same programme.
The word Community can be used in a lot of different equations which sometimes leads to confusion, or is it just me? The word Community has a lot of meanings to people within societies. What type of Community do we create and what type of Community do we foster? An example I always take when it comes to confusion with the word community in relation to health is used in the medical profession when it says, providing services in the community. However, when one looks for services in the rural community they may find services in theory but not in the practical. I know the theme is taking its broadest form from psychology, technology, personal experience to methodologies and ideas. However, each one has a different purpose and requires a different perspective of Community. The word Community needs to be defined and explained to be able to create and foster Community with a balanced outcome.
To build Communities, leadership is required and where good leadership exists a good community is to be found. However, Leadership is lost by way of the reduction in Priests and Gardaí. This for Communities is a problem which needs to be addressed to be able to sustain Communities. When a business becomes everybody’s business it soon becomes nobody’s business. However, a Community needs to become somebody’s business and then everybody’s business to help sustain the business. People like to be part of the Community and some people like to be asked to get involved as a volunteer, others will not get involved but may contribute in other ways and some just don’t care. Therefore, to build and sustain Communities, support in both administration and financial methods are needed with good leadership. Moreover, just because a minority or the majority don’t get involved in the Community those who can and do get involved should look at the advantages they achieve from being involved in their Community. They say you get a 100% from volunteering, a statement I agree with and have proven for myself in my community, am I the only one?
It is said society is more enriched and it is said that People are becoming Self Sufficient. Can this have an impact personally or on community? at the end of the day, we depend on family but we are dependent on agencies. Do we think of others in the community? When I look at photos from Antisocial Behavior on Halloween Night I ask the questions where does Community come into play within this society. Why did human people do this to other people? What should happen following these events? Who should do something about these events or should anything happen within the Community. But what if it happens next in your or my neighborhood. Then I think about our Public Health Service another part of our Community and I ask the question. Why is there people sleeping or not been able to sleep on trollies, on floors, in corridors in hospital, a condition one would not do in their own home even when not sick. Is this right or wrong? Where does this fit into a Community?
Change can be difficult for people, especially for people who have volunteered for years and suddenly policies, insurance, governance and laws are pushed on them for a role they would have carried out voluntary for years with a heart and a half. These people are made feel like criminals leading to dis-connection within their Community the greatest problem facing communities. We are all experts in some walk of life. Still, no one knows everything. We need Compliance, Rules and Structure but a community volunteers should not have to be made fear these. At the end of the day there is a clear need for a multi-agency, community voluntary and employed representatives with various parties sitting around a table to determine the best approach for each community throughout the country both rural and urban. This is where Congregation I hope can play its part with defining Community and finding what I’m looking for!!!.
About Muintir na Tíre
Muintir na Tíre, (The People of the Land) the national organisation promoting community development in Ireland, was established in 1937 by John M Canon Hayes, the first unit of which was launched in Tipperary town in November of that year. This was the beginning of Canon Hayes’ rural community idea which was to develop and expand into a comprehensive movement designed to raise the standard of living of people in all aspects of Irish rural life. The emphasis was on local improvement – social, economic, cultural and recreational – based on the participation of people themselves in the promotion of the welfare of their community.
Through its core principles of neighbourliness, self-help and self-reliance, Muintir na Tíre has promoted and supported the concept of active community participation and championed the idea of community development in both Ireland and Europe. From the early 60′s the organisation adopted the United Nations definition of the Community Development process, which states that it is “a process designed to create conditions of economic and social progress for the whole community with the fullest possible reliance upon the communities own initiative”. This definition reflects Muintir na Tíre’s approach to this process which is based around “the whole community” as a unit of organisation through which social, economic, cultural and environmental development can take place. Not just how to live more effectively in their own parish, but more especially how to care for their neighbours and share their common lot and heritage.
The 1st major project Muintir na Tire undertook was the promotion of the Rural Electrification scheme. Electricity came to Ireland in 1929 on a national scale through what was known as the Shannon Scheme. The supply was restricted to towns and villages of over 250 inhabitants. For 20 years nothing was done to change this situation. By 1947 only 2% of those living outside towns and villages were served by the National Network. However, the Government begun planning to implement the scheme to bring electricity to rural Ireland. Moreover, the idea of electricity was viewed with suspicion and in some cases outright hostility. To get the scheme going the ESB used Parish Councils to excite local interest in the scheme and help with canvassing for a change to the face and pace of Rural Ireland. Instead of waiting for some all-powerful government to give hand-outs to the people, Muintir asked the people to make their own decisions and try things out for themselves. This was achieved by a two side approach 1. Doing things for themselves and 2. Learning to get things done.
The Muintir na Tire organisation has pioneered many innovative and worthwhile projects which are now self-sufficient or administered by statutory agencies. Important amongst these were the Community Information Centres (now known as Citizen Information Centres), the establishment of Bord Fáilte’s Tidy Towns Competition, Group Water Schemes for rural areas, the provision of Community Halls and Centres, establishing small and medium size enterprises, the ongoing training of members of Muintir Councils and the community crime prevention programme, Community Alert.
In 1984 The Community Alert programme was established in response to an increase in rural crime and is managed as a partnership by Muintir na Tíre and the Garda Síochána. It is a community-based crime prevention, care and safety programme for rural communities. It has a particular emphasis on older and more vulnerable people in rural communities. The programme aims to improve the quality of life in rural communities through: Reducing opportunities for crimes to occur. Encouraging neighbourliness and self-reliance. Promoting accident prevention and personal safety. The Community Alert programme operates through a network of community alert groups, each of which is responsible for a particular area.
In more recent years Muintir na Tire became involved with Community Text Alert which is an Initiative to facilitate immediate communication from the Garda Síochána to the public. The Garda Síochána provide information by text or e-mail to each registered community contact and they, in turn forward the information by text or e-mail to all members of their Community Group.