'Best secret service in Cork' helping vulnerable young women 

For 26-years, the Wellsprings Centre have unobtrusively cared for young women suffering trauma or on the margins of society in Cork.
'Best secret service in Cork' helping vulnerable young women 

For the 235 women who have come through the doors of Wellsprings since 1995, the centre has been a home, and continuing point of contact.

For the people working at Wellsprings Centre, it is the hidden gem of children's services, or as someone recently said to manager Valerie McDonnell, "you are like the best secret service in Cork".

For the 235 women who have come through the doors of Wellsprings since 1995, the centre has been a home, and continuing point of contact, the venue for a birthday party or even the sender of a goodnight text message to those who ask for it.

Now the service is relaunching its website to shine more light on the work it does: the residential centre for vulnerable young women aged 16 to 23, and the enduring outreach service which, according to Valerie, has no cut-off point.

"What we have always done is try to always be a really really discreet service in Cork to protect the young people's identity and privacy," she says. 

"We operate a really small staff team, with limited resources and we are looking at it that other charities are out there and we are this hidden gem."

The centre, based in the city, was first set up by Sr Joan, a nun at the Mercy Hospital. Now mainly funded by Tusla as well as small donations, its referrals come from social workers in the main, and the clients can be young people who, in some cases, have no one else in the world. That's why, as Valerie describes it, it seeks to maintain a "lifelong connection".

"The girls would live here six months to two or a three-year placement. Then they are coming back for birthdays and Christmas dinners.

"Part of our weakness and our strength is there is no limit to the work we will do for them. We will do anything a young person needs us to do — rubbish removal, batch cooking, sorting accommodation, advocating for them.

"All the girls we work with have complex needs and loss and trauma in their lives."

Always there

There are currently 59 young people actively involved with the outreach service, and the consistency in the service is illustrated by the high staff retention rate: 58% of staff members have between 12 to 25 years of service in Wellsprings.

"They know we are always there for them," Valerie says. "Every one of them will get a goodnight text if they want it. They will all get a birthday card and be invited in for Christmas dinner.

As a voluntary service, it is not short of clients. "We are inundated with clients, but it's about people knowing the service. We need to promote our service to get more funds for what we are doing."

Chair of the Board of Wellsprings, Pat Mullins welcomed the launch of the new website and planned expansion of the service, as did Cllr Mick Finn of Cork ETB: “The Wellsprings project is one of our most respected funded organisations, going about its business quietly but achieving major outcomes for the young women who access services and supports.

"Wellsprings is funded via the UBU  — Your Place, Your Space scheme and those two things are just so important to the service users — space and a sense of place. Ensuring that those most in need of services — whether that’s therapy-based, assisting with local authority or statutory services or just a cup of tea and a chat — is a key responsibility and the Wellsprings staff do this with dedication and compassion. We are proud that they are supported by Cork ETB and encourage others in a position to support to get involved.” 

Aideen O’Dwyer of Cork City Council said: "Cork City Council are delighted to continue to support Wellsprings through Section 10 funding, in their work providing both residential placement and an outreach programme. Through their service, vulnerable young women are given the support they need to exit homelessness and sustain tenancies in a world that can present many challenges."

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