Inclusivity the key to success of unique partnership

Billy and Patrick Mulvihill of Amicitia Social Hub pictured with Vision Arch Club members, managers, tutors and volunteers. Photos: EIREFOTO
Billy and Patrick Mulvihill of Amicitia Social Hub pictured with Vision Arch Club members, managers, tutors and volunteers. Photos: EIREFOTO

Lifestyle – A special relationship between Athenry-based social enterprise Amicitia and Vision Arch Club, which provides a social outlet for people with special needs as well as their families and friends is proving a winner all-round. Francis Kennedy pays a visit.

‘Arch Clubs provide a secure social environment for people with special needs, their siblings and friends to learn, form friendships and, above all, have fun’.

So says the mission statement of the National Federation of Arch Clubs.

On a visit to a local Arch Club meeting at the Amicitia premises in Athenry, the ‘have-fun’ part is the first item that’s ticked off.

Smiles, laughter and non-stop chatter greet you and there’s a warm welcome from club members and leaders.

On the morning The Tribune visited, members were making pottery decorations under the guidance of ceramic artist Maeve Gallagher. These were subsequently glazed and fired in the group’s kiln and many were sold at the club’s December Christmas Market.

The Arch group meets in a space on Old Church Street, Athenry, formerly occupied by Mulholland’s Bookmakers. That’s now leased by Billy Mulvihill and his son Patrick and is the base for the social hub, Amicitia, and its trading subsidiary, Independent Living Ireland.

The Mulvihills wanted to create a space that would re-invigorate Athenry and leased the building with that in mind.

When the Chairperson of Vision Arch Club, Ita Cunningham, dropped in one day, asking if they had a place where its members could meet and use a kiln that had been donated to the club, the Mulvihills knew they had found an ideal partner for their venture.

Amicitia operates as a ‘social enterprise model’, and is mostly funded through revenue generated by Independent Living Ireland, which provides products and technologies to support older people, people with disabilities or those with long-term conditions, Billy explains. These products include a befriending-call service as well as monitored alarm systems which provide security for people living independently in their homes – something that’s particularly important in rural areas.  Independent Living also supplies organisations such as the Brothers of Charity and Ability West.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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