The Enable Ireland children's services centre in county Galway has been an integral part of the Galway community for over 24 years. The recent refurbishments to the building have made it more accessible and family-friendly. However, more work is needed, and a national fundraising campaign is underway to help fund a new design better tailored to the needs of the children and families who avail of services there.
One family who have seen first-hand the impact that the service can have are Ruby, Gemma and James Daly. Ruby, who turns three in March this year, has attended Enable Ireland's services in Galway since she was six months old.
We spoke to her mum and dad, Gemma and James, about how important the services are to Ruby and how they are looking forward to the refurbishment of the Enable Ireland centre.
"Ruby was born in March 2020, right in the middle of the lockdown," Gemma explains. "It was a very difficult birth, and Ruby spent her first month in NICU at Galway Hospital. After that, we were transferred to the neurosurgery team in Temple Street, and then when Ruby was diagnosed with a genetic condition in June 2020, we were referred to Enable Ireland Springtime Early Intervention Team.
"It was a really difficult and anxious time for us. You are wondering who is going to help and how we are going to get through this.
"The Enable Ireland team became our support team. The first people we met were the community nurse and the physiotherapist. Even though this was during Covid, they still did home visits with us, and then once the lockdown lifted, we could do visits in the centre.
"Ruby was getting a lot of support from the physiotherapist at the time. The Community Nurse also provided great support to us. She was able to advise us as parents, telling us who to contact for different things and how best to manage. I felt we could ring her day or night, and she would offer support.
"Since September 2022, Ruby has been going to the Rainbow Preschool in the Enable Ireland centre for three days a week. She absolutely loves being there. She's like the queen bee.
"Ruby is really social, so being in the preschool is perfect for her. She gets picked up in the morning from our house along with her equipment and dropped home afterwards. I know that she is in safe hands with the team there, from the bus driver, support worker and preschool staff.
"Ruby really benefits from Rainbow. She had been getting hydrotherapy in the Enable Ireland centre, and now she can continue this therapy while she is attending Rainbow. She's like a mermaid in the water and absolutely loves it. Ruby is not that mobile but she has great physical strength and is motivated to move. Being in the water gives her the independence to do that.
"As well as the swimming, Ruby also loves music therapy. At home she loves to play with musical toys and enjoys sensory books.
"Enable Ireland have helped us a lot with getting the right equipment for Ruby. She flies around the house in her walker and she has just gotten her first wheelchair. She has a lot of specialist equipment to help her during her day like a bath seat to get her in and out of the bath safely, special seating to support her, a lycra suit and specialized boots for support.
"The advantage of the transport to preschool is that she can bring what she needs with her on the bus. We wouldn't be able to bring everything she needs in our car. So she has all the equipment she needs with her to get through the day."
Enable Ireland Galway
Gemma and James say that the upcoming refurbishments to the Children's Service Centre will greatly benefit their family.
"The Enable Ireland centre in Galway is really important to us. Ruby's been going there since she was six months old, and she is really comfortable there.
"While we love going there, there are definitely things that can be improved. This project to refurbish the centre is really important to us and that's why we are happy to support this fundraising campaign.
"One of the things Enable Ireland plans to add is a sensory room. This would be of huge benefit to Ruby and all the children attending the centre.
"Children going to Enable Ireland have to work really hard, whether at their communication skills or at a physio appointment. It can be frustrating and tiring for them and sometimes a bit overwhelming. Having a place where Ruby can go and relax, a calm space where she can have a bit of quiet time, will be really important.
"So we are looking forward to seeing this sensory room added to the centre. It's a lovely building, but making it more vibrant and child friendly will be so important to all the children coming into it.
"The biggest impact that Enable Ireland have had on our lives is peace of mind. We know that Ruby is well looked after. There is a team of workers in the centre, and they are all connected and working with each other to support Ruby and us. Having everything under one roof is so important. "