Helping teachers tackle youth trauma

Lorraine was ' a workaholic' before having her baby, Ailbhe Mae. These days she works mostly from her home in Portumna but will be bringing her daughter with her to the Sugru wellbeing summer camps for children which she runs with her business partner Arlene Naughten.
Lorraine was ' a workaholic' before having her baby, Ailbhe Mae. These days she works mostly from her home in Portumna but will be bringing her daughter with her to the Sugru wellbeing summer camps for children which she runs with her business partner Arlene Naughten.

Lifestyle – Volunteering in Tanzania led Lorraine Lynch to train as a psychologist, focusing on children’s work. Now highly experienced, she has created a Department-approved course, helping teachers to help pupils who’ve endured trauma. DENISE McNAMARA hears about it.

Lorraine Lynch never had any clear idea about what she wanted to become when she was a ‘grown-up’. As the second youngest of seven in a single-parent family from Scariff in East Clare, she thought she might end up doing law after accepting a course in arts in Galway.

However, that all changed after she spent a month volunteering in Tanzania.

The school in the East-African country had no toilets, no playground, no handwashing facilities. Their playground was to play alongside rats on a rubbish tip.

She was helping teach children in a rural school and was struck by how sick one of the smallest children in the class appeared.

“Her name was Queenie. She was always falling asleep. The white of her eyes were this muddy brown colour. When I asked the teacher, she said was in fact very sick but her parents preferred her to be there because there was nothing at home – at least there she could be with other children.

“She had a terminal condition in her lungs and her parents couldn’t afford to bring her to hospital – the fee was the equivalent of €8 when converted from Tanzanian shillings. Of course, the first thing we all wanted to do was give them the money. But we were staying in a commune and were told under no circumstances could we give the family the money or we would make everyone a target for robbery.”

When Lorraine returned home, she remembers feeling guilty about having a warm shower.

“I saw a lot. It really impacted me. I wanted a job to help people – children in particular. For me it was a calling; if I’m not helping kids, I’m not happy.”

She began studying psychology and volunteered for the national child protection charity ISPCC, which runs Childline, receiving training on how to talk to children who were in the midst of a crisis.

“You are talking to children who have been abused. It builds you up and you feel you can handle anything.”

After a spell teaching English in Korea, Lorraine went on to do a Master’s in Health Psychology in Ulster University and is currently at the tail-end of a PhD in the same area in the University of Limerick, specialising in dyspraxia, a condition which is little-known but affects between five and 15 per cent of children.

Her thesis is on the lived experiences of children with dyspraxia.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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