“HUMBLE, modest and most of all, a beautiful woman” was the picture painted of one Limerick volunteer who has been nominated for her selfless work with grieving children.
Mary Browne from Broadford first began volunteering for the Children’s Grief Centre in Limerick ten years ago, after retiring from a career-guidance teaching post in Newcastle West.
“When you watch small children play, if you look and listen hard enough, you will pick up their anxieties.
“They will act it out unconsciously,” CEO Sr Helen Culhane told of their work.
Now in operation for more than 12 years, the volunteer-led centre has seen over 1,600 children between the ages of 4 to 18.
The South Circular Road facility offers a unique “listening service” to those who have experienced a separation, divorce or the death of a parent or loved one.
Sr Helen recalls her first encounter with Mary, who, she this year, put forward for a Volunteer Ireland Award, where the former teacher has now been nominated under the Children and Youth category.
She introduced Mary to the model that the centre operates under, using play as a way of communicating with younger children.
The nomination states: “Parents and guardians recognise the impact of Mary’s work, and often speak of the difference she makes in the lives of children experiencing loss, noting that they are coping better with their pain.”
It also recognised Mary’s commitment to her volunteer role, revealing that she makes a 100km return trip to the centre from her home in Broadford each week.
“Due to her gentle, compassionate presence, I find that both the small and the older children love her.
“Children know whether you care about them or are just doing a job. This shows with Mary.”
Pride of Place in the Centre is our Butterfly Remembrance Wall.— Children's Grief Centre (@children_grief) November 25, 2021
As part of Bereaved Children’s Awareness Week we invited children, parents and guardians to add their name or the name of a loved one to our butterflies. They recognise the strength and healing of children. pic.twitter.com/bTW6NWzp5M
Each week, Mary would see three children, easing the burden placed on the centre which two years ago won the National Lottery Good Cause Award.
Since then, Sr Helen says, children from all over the length and breadth of the country come down to the centre in Limerick city, to talk about their “heart-breaking” experiences.
“Having someone like Mary here is a tremendous help. She has that very warm, motherly presence.
“Volunteers come and go, but here is someone who has given a commitment of 10 years to us, and this is truly something exceptional,” Sr Helen, a trained counsellor and psychotherapist concluded.
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