By Declan Varley,
May I start by congratulating Josette and Clare and the team from the Hub Claregalway on this special occasion.
I’m a great believer in the concept of empathy — Empathy is the starting point for creating a community and taking action. Through the concept of empathy, we can see the world through other people’s eyes.
In this week, when we have 6,000 students in this county sitting state exams, I often think how much better our lives would be if one of the subjects they were taught in school was empathy. Humans are not conditioned to show empathy so it has to be acquired, to be learned. Empathy is all about finding echoes of other people in yourself.
By opening up a facility such as this, Clare and Josette are showing an empathy for what is needed here in the community. They know that in these busy modern times, there are few places where people of all ages can go and congregate, to avail of lessons, to offer to volunteer, to find out what is going on.
You would think that in these days of mass communications and smartphones, that everybody knows everything, but that’s not the case. There is still a strong need for human interaction.
The beauty of the Hub here in Claregalway is that it is self sustaining and evolving. If there is a demand for a certain class or craft or skill or service, they go out of their way to provide that. And they invite people to come to them with ideas for new classes or activities, so that the Hub will be ever evolving.
Claregalway is already fortunate to have had the Nuacht Chalir and the Claregalway.info websites — and this centre is an expansion of all of that. It is getting the message out there that there is a vibrant community spirit in the village.
By conceiving the idea of the Hub, Clare and Josette and everyone who helps make this a reality, is making Claregalway a better place.
And makes it better for the rest of us.
Two days ago, we saw the turning of the sod for the Claregalway and District Day Care Centre and what a project that is going to be. And it all came about because of someone deciding ‘ well what can I do for my community?”
You see, a true community is not about being geographically close as we all are. It is much more than that. A true community is one where you feel responsible for its direction, and its effectiveness. And where you can play a part in what is going on.
Modern life gives us lots of opportunities to take part in things, but there are few things in life that give as much fulfilment as doing something for your community.
I grew up in a library. In Ballinrobe, the town library was in one part of our house when I was a kid, so every night when the library would be closed, I’d sneak in and read to my heart’s content.
During the day, I would see hundreds of people come and go to the library, not just to get books, but to talk, to find escape, and find knowledge, and find a world of imagination. It was the first place where some people went to learn to read or write.
It was a light in the window for the entire community.
The Hub in Claregalway is that light in the window. Already it is reaching out and connecting with everyone. Life in Claregalway will be better because of the existence of the Hub. People who would never have thought they have something to contribute will now find that they can, because here with Clare and Josette and the team, they will find people who will listen to them and value their contribution. And make that work for the community.
What Josette and Claire have done here is open a door to the whole community and invited them in, and asked people to share their ideas, their small ideas, their big ideas. Conversations that will be held in here will shape the direction of this village for the next fifty years.
I’m delighted to have been a part of this community for the past two decades, so for me it is a special honour to wish them well, to offer any support I can, to thank them, and to officially declare open The Hub Claregalway.