One Woman’s Story of Being Given a Second Chance through the Sneem Resource Center
Five days a week, 32-year-old Mary Galvin wakes up in her hometown of Castlecove, and drives 20 minutes to take her three young children to preschool in Waterville. She then makes her way to Sneem and her job at the Sneem Resource Center, a bright powder blue building with a stone façade.
Mary has been working at the Center since last October as an administrative assistant. In this capacity, she is in charge of opening the Center, maintaining it throughout the day, cleaning it, printing the Center’s bimonthly newsletter, and completing other duties such as making copies and faxes for people. Her job is a temporary one, for only a year, and is intended as a launching point for future, permanent work. Mary, a slender brunette with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, began working at the Center after having her three children, Ciara 4, and 3 year old twins, Jessica and Fionan. When they are not in school, her twin sister or the children’s father watches them. In the evenings, she works as a bartender at D’ O’Shea’s Bar.
Mary’s job, as well as the Center itself, is overseen by the government organization Foras Aiseanna Saothair (FAS) also known as the Irish National Training and Employment Authority. According to its website, FAS “offers a range of training courses suited to the needs of jobseekers looking for employment.” Its purpose is to help people find well paying, worthwhile jobs, instead of collecting welfare or what is called “claiming the dole.”
Now in its 20th year, the Sneem Resource Center is run by a joint effort of paid and volunteer workers. It receives funding through donations and fundraisers they hold throughout the year. Deborah Callis, chairperson of the Center, says that it receives about $1,000 in donations a month. She says the goal of the Center is “to serve people who need it and [those] who don’t.” The Sneem Resource Center offers computer access for a small fee as well as enrichment learning courses on how to use computers. The Center also sells gently used clothing and other items that residents may need at a reasonable price. While most days the Center is very busy assisting people with their needs, Mary says that “some days are quiet.”
Before working at the Center, Mary was an accountant assistant and taking CPA classes at a local college in Limerick. She attended classes two evenings a week and had two years left when she had her children. After taking two years off for maternity leave, she says that attempting to get back into the workforce was “extremely hard” after being gone and because available work “is very limited the area,” it was a challenge to find decent work which would enable her to care for as well as spend time with her children.
Mary says that she went to the local FAS office looking for job opportunities and was told about the availability at the Center. She says that her job there is perfect because “the hours suit [her]” and because she is able to keep her medical benefits. She also says that not only is it a job for her, but with three small children, it is also a way for her to be with others her own age. She says, “It’s a social thing for me, it gets me out and meeting people.”
Mary is definitely an example of how the Center assists people with their needs and wants. While part of her job is to assist people and talk with them, the job is also helping her as well to become reacquainted with having a job outside of the home. She says that working at the Center “is good for the mind” because of the difficulties and stresses of caring for three small children.
Mary comes from a family of nine children; eight girls and one boy. Her parents own a bar in Castlecove named the Black Shop. Marian O’Sullivan Murphy, a volunteer at the Resource Center, has known Mary and her family for twenty-seven years. “They had to work hard [and things] were not handed to them like now,” said Murphy of Mary’s family. True to her upbringing, Murphy has known Mary to be a hard worker all her life. Mary has had “loads of jobs” throughout the years including working for her aunt, her family’s bar, and as a housekeeper in a hotel.
According to Murphy, Mary has never shied away from any sort of work. This is evidenced not only with the wide variety of jobs that she has had, but how she conducts herself at the Center. As she talks, she diligently continues her work, answering phones, washing dishes, sorting a pile of clothes brought in for the Center closet, and assisting a couple with copying and faxing some documents. She does not stop for one moment.
Before leaving for the day, Mary sets up tables in the Center’s main sitting room for the Bingo game later that night. She walks throughout the rest of the Center making sure that everything is in order. In September, when her time at the Center is through, Mary will have completed a course in Employment Law in the hopes of attaining work at a law firm. With her accounting background and her superior work ethic, there is no doubt that she will find a job that will support her family and allow her to continue advancing in her own life.