St. Patrick's, Dromahair strengthen community connections with 'We Remember' initiative
By John Harrington
In these times of social distancing it is still possible to strengthen the bonds of community and family.
Leitrim GAA club St. Patrick’s, Dromahair are proving as much with their novel ‘We Remember’ project.
The brainchild of St. Patrick’s Healthy Club Committee member, Seán Kelly, they’re encouraging people living in the area to dig out old photographs and upload them with relevant stories or memories to the club's social media accounts.
Club volunteers will help sourcing photo albums for anyone who might need them, and the hope is that the initiative will help reconnect friends and family with a shared history in Dromahair.
“I suppose I just thought it would be a good way to get people engaged with each other again,” explains Seán Kelly.
“I noticed myself on social media that if something is uploaded that is relevant to the community, one picture or story or quote can spur a conversation online.
“Last year, for example, I discovered an interesting story about my grandfather who is from this direction in Dromahair. By then he was long gone and I found an old picture my mum gave me and I put it up and put a little short story after the photo and the comments and the feedback on that was really uplifting.
“I ended up chatting most of the evening to random people who were over here on holidays years ago and were planning to come back who had known of my family. It just uncovered some very close-knit, local connections, I suppose.
“I just thought that was interesting, and more recently I was talking to my mother again who had found a pile of photographs that were in a box in the back of a wardrobe somewhere.
“With the lockdown and her being cocooned, my plan is to buy her a load of photo-albums and give them to her to do as a project.
“And so I thought that maybe a few other people might like to do something similar which is where this idea really came about.”
If you’ve ever reminisced with friends and family, you’ll know that one story tends to beget another.
When memories are jogged the picture of the past can suddenly crystalise into a clearer image, and Kelly hopes that will be the case in Dromahair in the coming days and weeks as locals upload their photos and stories.
“I'm from Sligo originally but I've been coming in and out to Dromhair all my life really and we bought a house here six years ago,” says Kelly.
“Like every small village in the country it's a tightly-knit community and if there's any relevance to the families and place-names it might spark something in someone to have a conversation.
“I know the older generation mightn't be online and mightn't see it. But that's where we're relying on the next generation in their family to pick up the phone or sit down with them if they can and find out a little bit more.
“We're all guilty of not taking the time to record and jot down a few notes on your own history or family. And then it's too late when they're gone.
“At least when these things are up in Facebook they're almost immortalised online.”
This latest initiative is just one of many rolled out by the proactive Dromahair Healthy Club committee in recent weeks.
Headed up by Healthy Club Officer, Tracey Kelly, they’ve posted advice around looking after your mental health during isolation, and echoed government advice relating to COVID-19.
They’ve assembled a group of 13 volunteers from within the club to help anyone that is vulnerable in the area with their shopping and prescriptions and are working with some local businesses to come up with a way to give back to the community and promote their business.
Like all Healthy Club committees, one of their biggest successes has been to get more people involved in the club by showing that the GAA is about much more than playing matches.
The ‘We Remember’ project is a good example of the sort of good ideas that can be generated when you bring in new members to the club, because until recently Sean Kelly wouldn’t have regarded himself as a GAA person.
“I joined the Healthy Club committee earlier this year,” he says. “Tracey Kelly our Healthy Club Officer just approached me to see if I would be interested. I'm the most non-GAA person you will meet. I have no football, no anything.
“But that's what she wanted. She wanted someone coming at it from a non-sport perspective. It was interesting for me to find out that the GAA started more as community-model initiative rather than on a football pitch.
“I would have thought the GAA was not for me because I was so far removed from it. But there's a great community vibe out here and hopefully the community are taking on board the few things that we are coming up with. It's nice to see some of the feedback on this initiative so far.”