Each year Wellspring Personal Care offers field placement opportunities for Social Work students from Irish Universities. Students learn about the system of care for older adults in the U.S., and provide outreach services for Irish born older adults in the Chicago Metro area. They also work one on one with Wellspring Personal Care clients. Over the past nine years, a total of fifteen students from University College Cork, National University of Ireland, Galway and University of Dublin Trinity College have trained with us.
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Social Work Student Elizabeth Coombes enjoys weekly visit with Wellspring client.
University of Dublin, Trinity College Social Work students Elizabeth Coombes and Sandra Wayne at Wellspring Personal Care Headquarters
Sandra Wayne, Liz Coombes and Breandan Magee of Chicago Immigrant Support organize a day long Lake Michicagn Cruise. More than sixty older adults enjoyed connecting with old friends.
E x p e r t i s e I n n o v a t i o n B e t t e r O u t c o m e s a t H o m e
In the fall of 2007, the Chicago Irish Immigrant Support Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Irish immigrants in Chicago, joined forces with Wellspring Personal Care, a Chicago based private duty home care agency to create The Chicago Irish Project. In the first phase of the project, the organizations developed “An Café Liteartha” (Literary Café), a Drop-In Gathering for Older Adults that provides a forum to gather and express an affinity for all things Irish. The twice monthly meetings feature guest speakers, educational programs, lively group discussion, Irish films, traditional Irish music and food. While the most visible in the Café’s participant group still have strong social ties, the concern began to grow for the frail elderly who may have limited mobility, or who may have simply lost their social connections.
As a field placement training site for Irish social work students for the past nine years, Wellspring Personal Care trains students from Trinity College, Dublin, the University College Cork, National University of Ireland, Galway. By incorporating the learning experiences available through the “Chicago Irish Project” into the total field placement opportunity, the Project hopes to attract students who may have a long term interest in the working with older adults in Ireland. In 2008, The Chicago Irish Project was recognized by the Irish Abroad Unit of the Irish government and funding was awarded to Chicago Irish Immigrant Support to underwrite the continuation of student involvement. Additionally, the Irish government is encouraging Irish Immigrant Support organizations around the country to replicate the Project’s design.
What has been most impressive and an unanticipated benefit of this program has been the story sharing between our Irish students, whose generation matured during a period of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity, and the Chicago Irish Project’s older adults whose memories are of a very different Ireland. The environment at “An Café Liteartha” encourages informal conversations where there is an opportunity for older adults to openly share stories about the challenges they faced as new immigrants in the mid 20th century. Although the students have some awareness of the economic hardships that many of their grandparents experienced, interaction with these unrelated older adults serves to bridge the communication gap about the past that often exists within families.
Since 2009, the Chicago Irish Project, through its incoming social work students, has focused on developing outreach and innovative programming for Irish born older adults who may be isolated or alone, and whenever possible, bringing them back into mainstream Irish life
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