GemCap Helps Out at St Michael’s House

We recently spent some time raising money and helping out at St Michael’s House, a Dublin-based organisation that provides support for people with intellectual disabilities. Here our Legal and Governance Manager Stacey O’Neill writes about her experience getting involved with the St Michael’s House leavers’ ball.

When the team here in GemCap began discussing the charities we wanted to get involved in for this year I immediately suggested St Michael’s House (SMH) and I wasn’t the only one. I would say in Dublin at least, most people know of SMH and the excellent work they do with children and young adults with intellectual disabilities. They have 170 locations, supporting over 2300 people. The SMH values of respect, kindness, honesty, excellence and creativity are not dissimilar in their end goal to GemCap values (expertise, teamwork and integrity) so it really was an easy choice. 

The SMH mission is simple but powerful: to work with service users to understand their needs and wishes and help them achieve their goals. They put it simply:

“Your life, your rights, your choices”.

We made a plan to figure out what we could do to help out while living up to the mission and values of SMH. The answer was simple: we would raise money and then show up when they need an extra hand. 

Raising money here at GemCap typically involves food, so we had a potluck lunch. The whole Dublin office had lunch together and we all made donations to the cause. Having learned from previous potluck lunches, we didn’t all bring food. If anyone wants it, I am happy to share the recipe for my pasta pesto salad! 

On a Friday morning in May I had the opportunity to visit St Michael’s House Grosvenor School in Sandyford on the day that their outgoing students were celebrating their Debs (leavers ball for those of you outside of Ireland). My job for the day was simple: general dogsbody doing whatever last-minute party prep was needed. Lynn, the teacher from the graduating class, had other ideas. Instead of just sending me where I was needed, Lynn invited me to join them in the morning to meet some of the boys and girls in her class and lots of other children and staff from the school. 

I joined them at a school-wide assembly and got to see a very fun and very loud Student of the Week presentation. It was a full house and the student of the week from each classroom received their certificates to massive, contagiously happy applause. The students were celebrated for achievements big and small, and it was obvious that the teachers, SNAs and other members of the staff at the school were bursting with pride. 

After assembly I got to meet Niamh, Barbara, and Des. Later I met the lovely Nicole, a student who was supervising to make sure us adults didn’t mess everything up; we had great chats about manicures and what hairstyle she had planned for the evening. Barbara is a teacher at the school, Niamh work works as an SNA and Des drove the school van and was described to me as a jack-of-all-trades and something of a godsend. The four of us picked up the gorgeous flowers arranged by another member of staff and off we went to pick up balloons donated by a local Woodies and headed off to turn the event space into a Love Island themed party extravaganza! 

On a side note, my teenage daughter described having a Love Island themed Debs as “vibes” which I think loosely translates into “a great idea”. 

First order of business was detangling the balloon strings and then onto more serious work. We blew up beach themed inflatables until we had no breath left and I got distracted by the gorgeous students’ pictures on their personal printed menus. 

If there is one thing I know about teenagers it’s that a good selfie can make or break a night – so a massive beach print selfie backdrop was hung (and then rehung but level this time) and we laid out the props table to make sure the photos were extra special and fun. 

So, we were all done. I headed back to work while everyone went off to get glammed up for the evening, but I had been hearing all morning about a special dance routine all day and there was no way I was leaving without seeing it! Thankfully, Nicole gave me a sneak preview of the dance the students would perform in front of their parents and teachers (and I spotted Lynn at the side clearly dying to join in the dance). 

I had so much fun with everyone at the school that I immediately unilaterally volunteered the GemCap team to head over to the school and help out with their garden. I really do hope I can get involved with the Debs again next year and I might try to learn the steps if there’s another dance routine. 

I know I can and will strive to do more to live up to SMH values of respect, kindness, honesty, excellence and xreativity going forward after meeting everyone at the school. This is a wonderful school, part of a wonderful organisation, and I urge people to make a donation if you are in a position to do so. 

You can learn more about St Michael’s House on their website.

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