Listen to Paddy Nugent - Kilcullen in the 1930s with Brian Byrne.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Viewpoint: A final push for Teach na nDaoine?

Committee members Albert Keegan, Antoinette Buckley, Liz Maloney and Steve Kinneavy.
The progress on the Teach na nDaoine project in Kilcullen can not easily be seen from the footpath or the road outside, writes Brian Byrne. But the reality is that a great amount has been done, and a relatively small financial push, of perhaps €35,000, will have it ready to open.

To achieve that, the new 'buy a paving stone' initiative is hoping to get widespread support. The immediate target is to sell 120 pavers — and 44 were sold this morning — but the ‘Walk of Life’ which they will be used to build could be extended to as many as 1,000. Donors can have names or a preferred message inscribed on them.

The work done to date has included the full refurbishment of the original Dispensary building, gas heating and electrical installation, and the building of an extension at the rear. That extension provides the key to potential wide-ranging use for what is a good translation of Teach na nDaoine, a 'Community House'.

It does seem that the project has been going on a long time. And it has, but for the very good reasons that every last piece of work and construction has been done with proper planning, and in compliance with all statutory regulations and inspections. The result is already showing just how useful a facility this is going to be.

It does seem too that there has been a lot of fundraising in the name of the Teach project. That's true too, there has been. But apart from the €45,000 in public money granted, these fundraisers have involved a lot of work, in most cases resulting in relatively small financial amounts to go towards the cost of the project.

What isn't visible also is the very high level of volunteer input by a few people in the actual construction work, as well as donations of time and materials, free or at cost, which have helped reach the point where a realistic time-tabling of an opening the facility may soon be possible. Donated materials for further work, including laminate flooring and patio pavers, are already waiting for installation at the appropriate stage of completion.

And here's the best part. All the money raised has gone directly into the refurbishment and construction, and 'we don't owe anybody anything' as a committee member told the Diary today. "There were suggestions that we should get a loan, but who was going to pay it back?"

The overall building will provide public rooms, one capable of seating up to 40 people comfortably. A kitchenette where those using the Teach can make tea and coffee is completed. Toilets which include facilities for people with disabilities. A space for a later full kitchen has been provided already with the required plumbing and electrical services. A side patio and garden area at the rear, will allow open air use in fine weather, as well as space where those using the building can get involved with small gardening or vegetable growing activity.

Who will be using it? The emphasis to date has been on providing a comfortable space where more elderly residents can meet. But that's not where it stops. Anyone with time on their hands, even for a short period, will be welcome to the Teach na nDaoine. A place to relax, read the paper, watch a bit of TV. A place to meet and talk, where somebody can catch up with or make friends. Evening social events like Bingo, maybe some music, or occasions where those who have gained skills over their lifetime can share them with others.

The concept is geared to be non-specific. It's not a sport-oriented community centre, or a clubhouse for a sports or other organisation. It is not a parish centre with a pastoral background. It is not going to be a 'mens shed'. Nor will it be a day care centre for the elderly infirm.

It will be what those who use it want it to be. With that in mind, the project committee are planning a few brainstorming sessions with various groups to get a wider view on what they would like.

It will certainly be for the man whom John Brady once noticed was doing a lot of walking up and down the street of Kilcullen, and stopped to talk to him.

"I don't know what to do with my time," he was told. "I can't afford to go to cafes all the time, I don't want to spend my day in a pub. I don't want to spend it alone in my own house, either."

Which is where the whole idea of an open-door 'community house' for the men and women of Kilcullen in a similar situation as that man came about. Regardless of their age, gender, religious affiliation, or anything else.

More years on than originally envisaged, the Teach na nDaoine is still a good idea. Maybe even better. It deserves the final push from the community to get it over the line and opened.

Dates have been set for a community 'paint-in' to work on cleaning and painting the completed outside structures — Wednesday 14 August from 7pm to 9pm and Saturday 17 August from 9.30am to 1pm. For anyone who wants to get off the sidelines, that would be a good place to start.

Our pictures here show where things are at.

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