24th January 2020 Hugh’s House & Garden – (for families of critically ill children) – how our colleagues from the NAS West Staff Engagement Group have made a difference in one day. By Eileen Fahy, Staff Engagement Facilitator
On my arrival at Hugh’s House & Garden at Belvedere Place, Mountjoy in Dublin on Tuesday 12th November, I was met by the ‘crew’ volunteering their assistance in the big clean up/renovation for the day namely Donal, Norma, Aine, Tom, Barry, Maggie, Shane and Tina (NAS West Staff Engagement Group). Hugh’s House & Garden provides accommodation 365 days a year to the families of children who are long-term in-patients of Temple Street, Holles Street, the Coombe and Rotunda Hospitals. Everyone involved helps on a totally voluntary basis. The house is run by a dedicated team of caring and compassionate volunteers and supporters, without whom they would not be able to offer families the support and care they need. The house is named after Hugh Curley Stack a beautiful boy born in 2012. In his short life he was a patient in both the Rotunda and Temple Street Hospitals and lovingly cherished by his parents Marty and Ade and siblings. As Ade described it, “Hugh got the best of care until he died in August, and they wanted to do something in memory of his short life. It is when you see the things that would have made their journey better, they decided to help families” and so began their journey that started with 2 derelict houses in Dublin to the fantastic resource that is there today.
Hugh’s House does not receive any government financial support, they rely on volunteers and fundraising, and as Pat (member of the board of trustees for Hugh’s house) told me “Hugh’s House is a home from home. It’s a parents own space and makes a huge difference to them to allow them to be near their child at a time when they need them most. Pat explained that is the volunteers that keep them going by maintaining the houses and the garden and the support from local businesses in donating items of furniture, fixtures and fittings. Aer Lingus (Difference Days project) developed the beautiful garden, which is low maintenance and even has a barbeque for those days when the sun peeps out. Pat was delighted with her ‘crew’ today, as they were able to sort out a lot of practical things that have been outstanding, as well as preparing and painting 3 bathrooms, cleaning fridges, Ironing and turning a disused bedroom into a bedroom that would give ‘Room to Improve’ a run for its money. I asked each of the ‘crew’ why they volunteered today and each of them without hesitation spoke about their colleague Jenny and how Hughes House has made such a difference to her and her family.
The following are excerpts from the individual stories from the ‘crew’ on the day. Their full unabridged stories can be viewed shortly on this webpage.
Donal Crowley - Ambulance Officer (Operations Resource Manager) Limerick a member of the NAS Staff Engagement forum in the West like all our volunteers was the instigator behind this volunteer day today. Donal explained about the connection with a Paramedic colleague Jenny, from Kerry, who has been living in Hugh’s House for the past 12 months. Jenny and her husband Alex have a son Jake who has been in Temple Street since he was born, and Hugh’s House enables them to be close by and not have the worry of travelling from Kerry each day. Donal spoke about the admiration he had for Jenny and Alex, and by volunteering in Hugh’s House, it would help many families like Jenny and Alex. “It makes us realise how fortunate we are and by giving something back, we can make a big difference”. Donal received a number of responses to his call out for volunteers for the day, and while there were more that would have liked to join in, he had to limit the numbers to cater for the work that was available that would be done on the day.
For Norma – Operational Resource Manager – she spoke about this day being about her reasons for taking part, and like Donal is was about the personal reason and one of ‘their own’ Jenny, who uses Hugh’s House. “Your heart would melt when you realise how important this place is to parents. . A by-product of helping out today for Norma was “learning how to use a steam iron properly”. A great skill no doubt to be passed on when she gets home.
Aine – a Paramedic Supervisor in Thurles, told me she has a nephew with disabilities who has gained a lot from services such as the Jack & Jill Foundation Aine certainly made a difference in one of the bedrooms that would give any make-over T.V. series a run for its money.
Tom - Lead Advance Paramedic Supervisor in Newcastle West, spoke lovingly about his brother who has special needs and being able to volunteer here today was very close to his heart as he also had a niece with similar issues who passed away in her early years. He was delighted to be here in his alter ego ‘MacGyver’ role and with his colleagues and “to be part of something outside of our daily work – it gives a complete other perspective, and he would gladly take part again”.
Barry - Paramedic in Ballinasloe, spoke about how important it is to him “to be able to give something back to the community. Barry spoke about their colleague and the life line that Hugh’s House is to so many parents.
Maggie - Paramedic Supervisor in Letterkenny gladly donned the white overalls to help out with the painting. Maggie told me that down through the years as a Paramedic, she has brought countless children to Temple Street Hospital or Crumlin Children’s Hospital and if she can make a huge difference to them in Hugh’s House then it is a no brainer in giving up her time.
Shane – Paramedic in Ballinasloe echoed each of his colleagues reasons for volunteering today. “it’s great to be in a position to give something back to families. Families need a place that is comfortable and has the space for cooking, cleaning and relaxing that is free and it makes such a difference to them
Tina – Advance paramedic in Killybegs, Donegal told me she initially saw the poster about Volunteering on Facebook, and it struck a chord with her as she said “I was that mother 20 years ago and know the trauma that parents go through.
Each and every one of the volunteers on the day put 100% into any task they were given and did it with a smile on their face. Since writing this piece I understand that 3 business men who over heard Maggie and Tina recount their day gave donations of €100 each, they were moved by the story they heard.
Image 2: This picture shows the exterior of Hugh's House with its red brick walls and yellow door