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Jacquie Horan, COPE Galway CEO, looks back on 2020

In a year like no other, COPE Galway CEO, Jacquie Horan, reflects on 2020, on how communities working together has resulted in ensuring the safety of people already facing the challenges of homelessness and domestic abuse and supports older citizens at increased risk of social isolation and requiring good nutrition.

As we begin a new year and as I prepare to step down from my role of 23 years as CEO of COPE Galway, my reflections on the last 12 months lead me in a number of directions.

While 2020 has by far been the most challenging year I have experienced as CEO of this local Galway organisation, it has also been the most enlightening in many ways.

I suppose our response to the pandemic forced us to sift away the chafe and get straight to the nub of what matters – everyone’s health and safety. In protecting our most vulnerable, we came together across the city and county of Galway and figured it out. Working together, we overcame extraordinary challenges.

I say this with first-hand knowledge of how our team of professional staff and dedicated volunteers responded. In very little time, we managed to open up a new hostel in the city so that no one would have to sleep on our streets. We kept our services open and responsive.

We completed the development of a new domestic abuse facility, Modh Eile House, to better-accommodate women and children needing safety. We reached out across the county to respond to the growing epidemic of domestic abuse, which was always there but became more exacerbated by lockdowns. Our teams also reached out to our older citizens, offering nutritious food and ongoing contact to combat increasing isolation and loneliness. And all this while implementing necessary safeguards to protect against the virus.

We did not do this on our own. We worked more closely than ever before with our partners in the statutory and voluntary services. We also had remarkable support from our corporate and business partners, philanthropic organisations and of course, the citizens of Galway on whose behalf we do what we do. The government supports were also very welcome in providing some financial reassurance during very uncertain times.

So what has emerged during the pandemic that is worth reflecting on?

Helping Together

When we work together towards a common aim, we achieve far more. I saw this happening in Galway in terms of our relationship with our many partners locally. Of note was our partnership with the public health department and our local medical supports in the form of our dedicated GP, Nurse and others. They all worked closely with our service teams and were almost 100% successful in keeping the virus out of our services and keeping our clients and staff safe. This was a monumental achievement – great credit is due to all who were part of this partnership approach.

I also joined the two local “Community Call” forums set up in March to coordinate the city- and county-wide response to protecting and supporting our most vulnerable, with a focus on our older citizens. Drawing from state and community organisations of all sizes across Galway, these forums delved deep into the community. We worked together to offer wide-reaching supports such as practical assistance, information dissemination and coordination of available government funding to support the community effort at a local level.

This intense and extensive level of working together across so many entities was vital in reaching those who needed it and most certainly offers a pathway for ongoing and future collaborations at a local level.

In Partnership with the State

The national response to the pandemic has revealed the fundamental importance of the thousands of community and voluntary organisations, staff and volunteers in providing vital social services across our cities, towns, villages and rural communities. Our sector has stood up to this challenge, protecting our most vulnerable and paving the way for a more equal, productive partnership between the State and the Community & Voluntary Sector.

To continue forward, we need funding to offer our professional employees the same terms and conditions as their public sector counterparts. Improved support of this sector will deliver impacts in multiples when coupled with the added value delivered by the Community and Voluntary Sector in terms of the amazing commitment of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers and the support of the public, business and philanthropic entities who continually support our work.

Thank you, Galway

The pandemic has shown us how fragile we are when faced with a global challenge. Minding our mental health and wellbeing is something I think we recognise this year more than ever, with nature, friends and family key to taking care of ourselves. Creating time and space to enjoy time spent with those we love most amidst the beauty of our wonderful planet is what really matters, while at the same time reaching out to those who need our care and protection.

This year more than ever, our wishes for a happy and safe 2021 hold so much more meaning for us as we do our best now in the hope that we can overcome this virus. Thank you to everyone who contributed to our work and who made it possible for us to reach so many.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhairimid

Jacquie Horan, CEO, COPE Galway

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Contact Jacquie Horan

T. 091 77 87 50. E. jhoran@copegalway.ie

 

COPE Galway Background Information

COPE Galway is a local Galway organisation whose vision is for a community where every person is valued, cared for and supported at every stage of life. COPE Galway understands, respects and responds to the needs of people who struggle with the challenges of homelessness and domestic abuse and supports older people towards healthy and active ageing.

In 2019, COPE Galway worked with 2,984 vulnerable people in Galway. This included 1,189 adults and 433 children affected by homelessness, (187 families and 868 single people). They also worked with 638 individual women and their children who were experiencing Domestic Abuse, produced and delivered 61,016 meals to older clients and to their services around Galway and worked with 724 older people at risk of isolation. The organisation also supported 2,938 individuals with food from the Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived (FEAD) Programme and distributed over 700 school kits.

COPE Galway’s strategy for 2020-2025 focuses the organisation on its mission: Making a difference by empowering people, creating change and strengthening communities. COPE Galway places its values – rights, respect, hope, community, safety and professionalism – at the heart of its work in the community.

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