St Johnston and Carrigans Donegal



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AMERGE for brighter days

Emma Holmes and Ann Marie Mitchell of the women’s group, Amerge, in the St Johnston and Carrigans area, give an insight into the development and key achievements of the group.  

The logo of the group is a key, a circle and a rainbow.

The Amerge Group is a group of women who got together to tackle some of the issues in the local community.  This group is distinct from the St Johnston and Carrigans Women’s Group.   Amerge highlights the huge benefits of having a Family Resource Centre in the St Johnston and Carrigans area.  Without the childcare facilities provided by the centre, these women individually or as a group would not have been able to access the opportunities as outlined below.   

Amerge began first in early 2002 when a group of fourteen women from the area decided to engage in some activism to deal with the lack of suitable housing in the St Johnston and Carrigans area.

The name Amerge came from an exercise in which the first initial of the names of six women in the group was used to create it.

By two years later, Amerge had completed a local survey on housing conditions and the health problems due to poor housing.  Numerous letters to local TDs and council officials were produced.   The results of the survey were horrific.  The survey showed that 67% of the children suffered health problems with 33 % of children requiring hospitalisation.  Half of the rented accommodation owned privately had serious health and safety problems, including dampness, cold, inadequate ventilation, and no fire escapes.

Amerge would meet up to do different courses and workshops with help from Donegal Second Chance Education for Women Project, the VEC (Amerge participated in the VEC's Learning for Living Programme) and the St Johnston and Carrigans Family Resource Centre. 

The lack of housing in the area was a big issue.  The group famously performed a play to highlight the difficulties.  It was while the group was engaged in a Drama Workshop with the Balor Theatre it decided to base its play on housing.  The group were invited to perform the play at the local Electoral Meeting.  The play hit hard with the councillors.  The play was performed at various events, Donegal Women's Network AGM, Council Electoral Meeting, The St Johnston and Carrigans Family Resource Centre and at the Second Chance Education Project for Women's Education Project.

The Amerge Group was chosen by Donegal Women’s Network to take part in the case study phase of the Draft Quality Assurance Framework Project for AONTAS, The National Association of Adult Education.  This was a five-week programme of which the group felt very privileged to have been a part of.  They say they all got so much out of it.  They went to Dublin for an overnight stay and participated in the final workshop with the Framework Project Steering Group.  This project is now in its pilot phase and Amerge were delighted to be participating in this as well.

The group were invited to go with Donegal Women’s Network to visit the Dail and the European Parliament.  Three members attended and this was followed by lunch in the Dail with Minister Mary Coughlan.  A great day was had by all.

The Amerge group were presented with a Blow Your Own Trumpet Award by Donegal Local Development Company.

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