FOR some women, it is an opportunity to pick up new skills on the path back to employment. For others, it is a chance to paint, take photos and get in touch with a creativity they didnâ€™t know they had.
Despite being only a year old, the women-only â€˜stepping stonesâ€™ project in Tournafulla is already having an indelible impact. The project, which has been run from the local community centre since September, has taught fourteen women between the ages of 23 and 65 maths, basic computer skills, art and other subjects.
Run by West Limerick Resources and the County Limerick VEC, the course was designed to provide a friendly environment where women who are out of work can learn new skills and build up their confidence.
Leesha Foley, project co-ordinator, said that the first year of the course has been a clear success.
â€œThe aim is to up-skill them, and prepare them for new employment or further education. The women are from around Abbeyfeale, Tournafulla; theyâ€™d be ex-Kostal workers, ex-Dell workers. We follow a set FETAC programme, but we try to make it a casual environment for them.
â€œIt gives them confidence. Some of these people wouldnâ€™t have worked for two or three years. It gives them enthusiasm to go out and look for a jobâ€.
Last Thursday, to mark the culmination of their yearâ€™s work, the students held an exhibition of paintings, photographs and drawings at the Abbeyfeale library. Over 100 works were put on view to members of the local public, with a number of them actually being purchased on the night.
Ms Foley said that the art exhibition was another reminder of just how far some of the students have come.
â€œThis exhibition is a collection of all the work theyâ€™ve done. Before this, most of them wouldnâ€™t even have picked up a paintbrush before. Some of them wouldnâ€™t have had digital camerasâ€.
The â€˜stepping stonesâ€™ programme issues FETAC level four certificates. The project is funded under the equality for women measure, with support from the European Social Fund and the Department of Justice.