Limerick-based charity’s partnership with lender extended

A POPULAR Limerick charity has had its partnership with Sarsfield Credit Union extended for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In early 2020, Dochas, which provides a supportive environment for autistic children across the city and county, won a popular vote among lender members to become its charity partner for the year.

However, in March Limerick and the rest of Ireland went into lockdown in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19. Since then, the restrictions have remained in one form or another.

This means Dochas, which is based in Parnell Street, has been unable to take full advantage of being Sarsfield Credit Union’s charity partner – a package that normally comes with a cash prize and a one-year promotion from the branch.

Likewise, tightened hygiene restrictions and a drop in footfall at the Stone Jug building also ruled out any votes on a new charity partner for 2021.

So, Patrick Flaherty, director of sales and marketing, said the staff had decided to continue with the support of the same charity for another year.

It’s a situation that has proven ideal for Dochas, which, along with other charities, has seen its funds drop significantly due to the pandemic.

Collections at church doors did not take place, with many masses taking place behind closed doors, while the packing of supermarket bags was not possible to name just two examples.

But the centre’s director, Cyril Killeen, said it was the inability to provide a service to young people that was most difficult.

“We were closed from March to the end of June, and only open to family bubbles at this stage. We were able to resume more normal service in August, but with limited staff, and then close again in January. The stop-start nature of it is really difficult when you work with young people whose routine is very important to them, ”he explained.

Once Dochas can reopen, Cyril said he hopes to add new clubs and expand its services to support more autistic families and young people.

He added: ‘We plan to introduce projects within our services and also develop working collaborations with other services such as the University of Limerick.’

Another big awareness campaign that Dochas missed last year was World Autism Day in early April, with Ireland only going into lockdown a few days before.

Cyril admits it will probably be the same this year.

The Covid-19 pandemic is very difficult for children and families of children with autism, the center director said.

“The disruption of routine with both education and club activity has been very difficult for young people with autism and their families. We have anecdotal evidence of regression in education, social skills and behavior.

In a bid to counter this, Dochas has stepped up its online social club activity, which hopes to provide a springboard for families to be able to resume some sort of normal service.

In a very difficult year, the partnership with Sarsfield Credit Union has provided a shine of light, giving Dochas much needed exposure, Cyril adding that it will hopefully put the charity in the spotlight for additional funding.

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