Friday, 19 December 2014

Celebrations in Donamon to mark Cuisle’s 10th anniversary

Friday promises to be a fun day in Donamon, as the Irish Wheelchair Association celebrates the tenth anniversary of Cuisle.

            Celebrations begin with Mass at 1 pm followed by a barbecue and disco to mark the ten-year milestone. The wheelchair accessible holiday centre has seen huge change in its ten-year history, being transformed from a former seminary which had six en-suite rooms to a state-of-the-art wheelchair holiday centre complete with 35 en-suite rooms and a range of services and recreational facilities.

            In 1997 President Mary Robinson performed the official opening of the new facility in Donamon. A former seminary for the Divine Word Missionaries, the Irish Wheelchair Association took a long-term lease on the building adjacent to Donamon Castle in 1997. Since then the building has been adapted in a variety of ways to ensure that it is fully suited to its purpose as a holiday centre for wheelchair users.

            The centre provides a huge range of facilities for visitors. Personal assistants are available to visitors at all times and all rooms are equipped with a call button to call staff day or night. There are also conference facilities, a computer room and flower and vegetable gardens for the gardening enthusiast. Local underage soccer, rugby and Gaelic teams use the adjacent sports fields, ensuring that the centre is a hive of activity every day of the week.

            Visitors to the centre also benefit from the fact that the building is adjacent to the Divine Word Missionaries headquarters in Donamon Castle. There is mass in the church there every morning at 9.30 am and the chapel is fully wheelchair accessible and can be accessed from the centre via a corridor.

            A full catering staff means that all types of parties can be catered for, birthday parties, anniversaries, communions, confirmations and the centre has even hosted a few wedding receptions. Indeed, there are five members of staff employed at Cuisle who were there ten years ago – Ann Gacquin, Kathleen Kenny, Bernie King, Kathleen Morris and Leo Hunt.

            Nearby there are 31 wheelchair accessible fishing bays and the centre can provide a packed lunch to the angling enthusiasts. A gillie can also be organised to ensure that anglers can set up the fishing rods and learn how to fish.

            Wheelchair accessible transport is a major feature of the Cuisle centre. Accessible buses bring Cuisle holidaymakers on various trips in the region. Inside the centre, there are 35 en-suite bedrooms, all of which are totally wheelchair accessible. Fine cuisine is also on offer, with a fully equipped kitchen and knowledgeable catering staff.

            Duty Manager Geraldine Coyne said, “Best of all, we have a dedicated staff who provide a very caring service to people who come here and that’s why we have so many people coming back, from America, England and Ireland. We get hundreds of thank you cards from people with disabilities who come here.”

            This week was a very busy week in Cuisle. The centre hosted a conference on Spina Bifida and also hosted a group from Meath Arts Club, as well as a group from the Brothers of Charity. One reason why the centre proves popular with wheelchair users from all over Ireland is that it can pick up guests from bus and train stations in the region.

            Visitors to Cuisle are a varied bunch. “Anyone can come, not just people with disabilities. People hear about it through word of mouth and meeting former guests,” said Geraldine. Volunteers are an important element of the service at Cuisle and the centre has local, national and international volunteers. Among them at present is Yukno from Seoul in Korea who is in Ireland as an international volunteer.

            Driving lessons are available at Cuisle, provided by the Irish Wheelchair Association, who use the centre as a base to provide driving lessons for people with disabilities.  Accommodation at the centre costs €70 per night, including bed, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

            Asked about future plans, Geraldine said that staff at Cuisle intends to promote integration and want people from the local community to know that they can come in any time, that the centre is open to everyone.

            The personal touch is another important aspect of life at Cuisle. “The staff are so kind that people want to come back. The personal touch means so much and it’s gone out of hotels. We intend to keep that here and promote that, because people like connecting with other people. We try to get to know the people and call them by their Christian names.”

            Life for carers can be difficult and a holiday at Cuisle can provide a break both for the carer and the person being cared for. Apart from the recreational facilities, there are also many beautiful walkways around the centre, ideal for a peaceful stroll or to enjoy the beautiful surrounding parkland.

            Why not get yourself along to Friday’s celebrations and join with the staff of Cuisle in celebrating a decade in Donamon. Cuisle can be contacted at (090) 66 67722.