She has worked with COPE Galway since 2016, but her sights were set on working for the organisation long before then.
“Going through school and college I always felt that COPE Galway was an organisation that stood out to me.”
Being naturally empathetic, having a want to help others and to work with younger people, Elaine studied social care in Limerick, but was not sure what area she wanted to branch into. It was her college work placement with the Garda Youth Diversion Project in Moyross in Limerick that lead her to working with COPE Galway. Through this placement, Elaine discovered that working with “young people from disadvantaged areas, that had difficult upbringings” was the route she wanted to go down.
Although Elaine had this work experience under her belt, along with working in a creche at the time, she didn’t believe she would be the right fit for a support worker position that became available within COPE Galway. Elaine didn’t think she had “enough qualifications or enough experience”. To her surprise, Elaine was successful in getting the support worker role and since then, always tries to “aim higher” than what she thinks she is capable of.
As a Team Leader in Solas Óg, Elaine does not have a “typical day”. Although there are standard practices for staff within the service, like morning hand overs and opening the in-house playroom for morning and evening sessions with children, each day is different. This variety is one of the things Elaine loves about working with COPE Galway.
“I love the idea of coming in and not really knowing how the day is going to pan out. It keeps us on our toes.”
Not only is there variety in her work, the diversity within Elaine’s team and among the people they support is something she finds very beneficial for continual learning and challenge. Within the Solas Óg team, backgrounds range from play therapists and family support workers, to people who have worked in childcare and studied neuroscience.
Bundled with her empathetic and helpful nature, Elaine found that being open to change, using your initiative and really listening to the people you are supporting are vital qualities in offering the best support to the people that use the service, and to her progression to Team Leader, noting that much of the work she does is led by the young people the Solas Óg team supports.
Understandably, being a Team Leader comes with a lot of challenges but is a role Elaine finds equally rewarding. Having input into changes she feels are needed and seeing people who have been supported by the service progress, are what she finds the most fulfilling. That said, Elaine is slow to take any credit for the accomplishments of the people she has supported over the years through her work with COPE Galway. She believes it is down to the individual themselves and the work that they put in:
Reflecting on her time with COPE Galway to date, Elaine’s advice for anyone looking for a role with COPE Galway is to “go for it”:
“Go for the position if you think you want it and see how you get on. If you get the post, don’t be afraid to ask questions or come to other team members for support if you need it – because that is what we are all there for.”