*Fintan Shanagher and Mairead Casey load the vans. Photograph: John Mangan

WHEN you say you’re from Newmarket-on-Fergus, there are two things people say to you – hurling and Obair. And they’re the two things that everyone in Newmarket is very proud of.”

These are the words of Obair’s acting manager Siobhán O’Driscoll, who quickly corrects herself to include soccer. “Between our soccer, hurling and Obair, they are our three main identities. They’re very proud of it,” she says, when asked about the importance to Obair to the people of Newmarket-on-Fergus.

From the cradle to the grave is the ethos of Obair in its approach to supporting their community. Established by a group of people from the community in 1992 – including Clare visionary Dr Brendan O’Regan – it began as an entity that delivered work schemes to people in the area however over the last three decades it has become so much more than that. It now employs up to 48 staff and counts 110 volunteers on its books.

Siobhán tells The Clare Echo, “A lot of people come in through the creche, they’ve had kids in the after-school programme, they’ve worked in Obair, their parents are getting their meals on wheels, maybe their aunt is volunteering. It’s all walks of life. The whole community can avail of Obair. Nobody is going to make a profit from it, but it’s the community who owns it”.

The community development organisation is most well-known these days for its Meals on Wheels service. Having delivered around 35 meals a day prior to Covid, Obair’s service became vitally important to the older population in Newmarket-on-Fergus and beyond with the arrival of the global pandemic, for obvious reasons. Today, some 200 meals a day are delivered to people in areas from Ennis to Tulla, down to Cratloe and back into Newmarket.

They are serviced by a fleet of six vans, including three newly-purchased electric vehicles, and plans are in place to expand the offering from Kilkee to Lisdoonvarna with the medium-term target of delivering 400 meals per day.

Photograph: John Mangan

“We rely very heavily on volunteers, especially with the meals on wheels. We’re so lucky with the meals on wheels that we have astounding volunteers, they are reliable, efficient, and we wouldn’t be able deliver the meals and wheels service without our volunteers,” explains Siobhán.

Counted as possibly their youngest volunteer is a certain Páraic McMahon of The Clare Echo, and Siobhán quips, “Everyone likes to do their own area except for Páraic, he likes to do Clarecastle because he wants to keep an eye on what they’re doing there with the hurling”.

“Older people love meeting the volunteers, they want to meet the locals to have the chat, to keep an eye on them and to make them feels safe in their home”.

A ‘Food4You’ App is going to be launched soon by Obair to make the ordering process easier with greater selection of homemade meals which incredibly cost just €6.

On the other end of the scale, Obair’s creche is always at full capacity with up to 90 young children being cared for at Obair’s community building which also facilitates the Rós Café, which is run by Newmarket-on-Fergus native Claire Coughlan. “We have a concept here with the creche that we do cradle to the grave. We deal with babies, we deal with after schoolers, we deal with teenagers, and we have our going strong group that come here and meet on Tuesdays from 2-4pm and then we have the Meals on Wheels project.”

Obair also developed the fabulous O’Regan Park in Newmarket over 10 years ago, which they also maintain and Siobhán refers to as “a little oasis in the middle of the village”. They also deliver a CSP work scheme which aims to bring people back into employment, with particular emphasis on people in recovery, school leavers, ex-offenders, asylum seekers, young mothers and members of the Travelling community.

She continues, “Our new social enterprise Tradaree building takes up half the main street and out of that comes our meals on wheels and food products. Within that social enterprise in Tradaree we have sublet a number of social enterprise for start-ups, so we have a Mexican food truck, a lady doing Ukrainian food, we have a baker, we have different training classes going on in our training school, and we have a fabulous state-of-the-art youth space in the back that different youth groups and organisations use.

“During the winter we have the post primary homework support club and we got funding from the Clare Local Development Company sidecap programme, working with kids that would be struggling in school, could be earmarked to be early school leavers, might have behavioural issues, so we give them support. We have two tutors. They come in off the bus and get their dinner, get a cup of tea and then get support with their homework. For the last half hour we have fabulous state of the art games and computers, pool table and a hot chocolate machine so they get to chill then, and we do group work with them too”.

If you’re interested in volunteering with Obair, call (061) 368030. For more information visit obair.org.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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