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Mercy Mission

Arbour House, Warrenpoint, Co. Down, Ireland

Giving birth to a child with disability is very traumatic. The parents have to grieve for the child they did not have and learn to love the child and his/her disability. This is a very lonely time and parents have to go through all the stages of denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, maybe years down the line, acceptance. Worry and anxiety about their child and their future continues all through life, and there is inevitable concern about what will happen when a parent dies. The need for real support is very important. Care in the community is improving but parents still appreciate a visit from someone like ourselves who will provide a listening ear without taking notes!!!

I grew up with disability in my family. I know all about the joys, the pain and the worry. As a Sister of Mercy I was trained as a special needs teacher. In addition, for twenty eight years, I visited families and organised preparation classes for the Sacraments. At no time could I say to a mother at the end of her tether I will take your child and give you a break.

Arbour House is the result of many years of prayer and discernment. An arbour is a place of refuge from the noonday sun. Arbour House is an unpaid voluntary residential project providing weekend and summer holiday respite for young adults with a learning disability. We also have a Social Club, which operates on a fortnightly basis.

In 1991, we formed a lay religious community made up of three young people in their twenties and myself. Our aim was to have a strong Christian ethos embracing guests and volunteers from all denominations - To recognise Christ in those who are marginalised and most vulnerable in society, and to embrace Him in all who commit themselves to the project as volunteers. This community enabled us to get the project off the ground. Today, instead of a community, we have a core group of twelve, and another twenty five volunteers. No one is paid.

Parents and siblings are delighted to have a weekend break for their son or daughter, and this allows them to care for them at home longer. Many parents have a chance to do other things while their son/daughter is away.

Most of our guests have never been away from home before so our house acts as a bridge between their own home and possible future long term care. Arbour House is small. This provides a more homely atmosphere and a greater opportunity for links with families especially in times of crisis.

The House continues to be dependent on voluntary donations. We are well established after seventeen years and have a good relationship with neighbours and other bodies. We are registered with the authorities and subject to the same inspections as other Homes. We have an outstanding group of volunteers. In our House there is no such thing as” them and us,” ( i.e. disabled and able bodied) there is only” US!!”

As I grow older and look around at our dedicated volunteers, I believe when I retire there will be some one courageous enough to take the risk and continue the Arbour House story for as long as there is a need.

Sr. Anne Marie Crawford

Fraynework Enabled