History & Development
The founding of The Social Action Group
Those who founded, moulded and shaped the Social Action Group were strongly influenced by the Christian ethos of service to others by the Meitheal tradition, where neighbours gathered to help neighbours and by ideals of social justice and equality. Young people in the group are encouraged to make a genuine effort, as a group to brighten up the lives of other people and assist in the creation of a community of shared values, responsibilities, opportunities and benefits.
They are asked to look at people and in doing so see an image of themselves with the same needs, possibilities and rights. Members are given the opportunity to take part in grand ventures like the construction of sheltered houses for the elderly but are also asked never to underestimate the power and importance of a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of kindness all of which will have the power to turn a life around.
Members are encouraged to live life to the full, discover a purpose in life, aim for the ideal, help to create a community and country of which we can all be proud.
A Brief History
In the early days, the Social Action Group members organised a range of activities including a community vegetable garden, a senior citizens party, regular meetings and a Christmas fast to raise money for the Third World. Perhaps the most important activity was the visits to St Finan’s Psychiatric Hospital in Killarney at a time there was very little links between the people in the hospital and the outside world. Theses visits to St Finan’s and the holding of parties in Rathmore for the people in the hospital helped to break down barriers, remove stigmas and build friendships. It was no surprise that one of the first houses to be built for people from the hospital and one of the first Psychiatric Day Care Centres was built in Rathmore.
In 1982 the Social Action Group decided the time had come to build its own headquarters. Funds were raised, a site provided by the local Presentation Sisters, labour provided by AnCO and the Headquarters, Teach Iosagain, was opened on St. Patrick's Day in 1983. It included a Disco Hall, Sitting Room, Kitchen, and a Coffee Dock. It provided a recreational facility for young people, rooms to be used by the whole community and it was a centre where the SAG could generate a traded income. This building also included a Laundry room to serve the older people who were in need of the service.
In 1983, the SAG was presented with a major challenge by a Killarney based Priest, Fr. Clifford. He had undertaken a survey of the housing conditions of older people living in the Kerry diocese and discovered that many people, especially those living alone lived in very poor conditions. He invited the Social Action Group members to become involved in a campaign aiming to improve living conditions thus presenting the Group with a very significant challenge.
The introduction of a laundry service for older people initiated the SAG’s care programme for older people opening many doors and requests for essential improvements. Soon a hectic programme was underway. Young people and their leaders visited homes to clean and paint. Essential repair grants were secured from Kerry County Council to install electricity, water, new windows and doors. Within a few years there was a dramatic improvement in conditions and important links established between the younger and older generation to their mutual advantage.
In 1991, the SAG recognised that there was a need for Social Housing for older people who needed to move closer to essential services and to combat the effects of loneliness and rural isolation. A company was formed, charitable status achieved and the SAG was approved as a provider of social housing. Over the last twenty six years the SAG has undertaken three housing projects creating twenty seven houses, four apartments with four more houses currently being added. Finance for these projects was provided by various State Departments, the County Council, the HSE, and the Social Action Groups own fundraising efforts.
In 1992, The SAG built a Day Care Centre in conjunction with the Southern Health Board. It was an immediate success with people being transported to the Centre from all over the community in a fleet of SAG buses. In fact, it was so successful that a larger Day Care Centre was constructed in 2002 to meet increased demand and it was officially opened by President Mary McAleese in July of that year. Up to forty older people come to the centre each day Monday to Friday. There is also a meals on wheels and a laundry service to serve the needs of older people.
In 2015, the SAG purchased the local Presentation Convent, a listed building, from the Presentation Sisters. From December 2015 to May 2017 nine workers on average were employed each day in renovating and developing the Convent breathing new life into a beautiful old building and in the process creating several apartments for older people and a residential area for the remaining Sisters. This €1.1 million project was financed by the SAG’s own enterprises, its own fundraising and money generated by the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle. Phase two of the project, the construction of four houses in the convent grounds is due will commence in late 2017.
The Social Action Group has also developed Teach Iosagain over the years creating a very large and modern Youth Creativity Centre housing all kinds of facilities and providing a wide range of services for young people and for the community in general. It generates an important traded income for the organisation. Teach Iosagain is supported by Pobal who provide €70,000 each year to pay for a Manager and two FTEs (Full Time Equivalents).
The Social Action Group is a company limited by guarantee (CLG). It is a registered charity (Chy9004) and a registered provider of social housing. The SAG has made a formal commitment to undertake a process to comply with the New Code of Governance and is presently on the journey to be fully compliant.
Eight Directors are entrusted with the task of ensuring all statutory and legislative requirements are fulfilled, the Code of Governance achieved, financial guidelines adhered to and leadership provided.
There are also committees to ensure the effective running of the Day Care Centre, Teach Iosagain, Social Housing and the Youth sector.