Bridget's Story My name is Bridget Quish, I am married to John and we have 4 boys. I have been a stay-at-home mother for the past 17 years as a full-time carer for my autistic son Sean. I left school just after completing my Junior Cert. I went straight from school to employment and I mostly worked in shops and factories. I was made redundant while on maternity leave with my oldest boy Sean. Shortly after this my life changed dramatically, my mother died tragically, and shortly after my son Sean was diagnosed with Autism when he was 4 years old. This changed my outlook, had a major effect on me and I had a lot of challenges over the coming years. I have been out of employment for 17 years. I was always looking to get back to employment but it needed to be something that I enjoyed and that fitted in with my family life and responsibilities. My friends and family would often would I consider a career in healthcare as they thought it would suit me and mentioned that there were a lot of employment opportunities in the area. They set the seed for me, I had the experience of caring for my son Sean and I knew it would be something that I would enjoy. There certainly were employment opportunities but I didn’t know how to access them, that’s when my cousin showed me the advertisement for Healthcare Opportunities for Women in our local paper, it was my olive branch back into employment. It seemed to be just what I needed. Ballyhoura was looking for women that were looking to return to work, the advertisement mentioned building confidence, setting goals for the future, meeting new people, gaining a qualification in healthcare, it was exactly what I was looking for. It also suited my circumstances as my youngest son was about to start school. I met with Eileen the course coordinator and shortly after we began the employment-focused Personal Development programme, this 6-week programme forced me to dig deep, to explore feelings and emotions that I had kept buried, I’m so glad I did it and so glad I got involved with the Healthcare Opportunities for Women group. The personal development module helped us bond as a group, I was never alone, I wasn’t isolated. We created a bond as a group and I don’t think I could leave this group now. There is a lovely atmosphere, we are all learning together, we are all coming from a similar background or similar life experiences and we all want the same for the future - to gain a qualification and get back into employment doing something we enjoy. We all support each other and learn from each other. It has been excellent for myconfidence. The backup and support from Eileen and the tutors is wonderful, we can pick up the phone or look for advice at any time. In January we moved on to the formal training, it was daunting at first. It was my first experience of assignments and it was time-consuming and I found myself at my kitchen table doing my homework along with my sons. I have learned so much and it has been a real eye-opener. I have completed three modules so far and currently in the middle of my fourth module, I have got the results of two modules so far and to say I was totally overwhelmed is an understatement when I saw I had received two distinctions. It is such a great feeling, this time last year I could have never imagined it. It was so good to see my name on those certificates, my first qualification.It’s great to be able to set a good example to my children and work towards providing for my family financially, I stayed at home and looked after them while they were young, now it’s my time. I will shortly be starting my work placement in a nursing home in a local village, I’m really looking forward to this. When I am finished with my training I hope to find part-time work that is flexible and will fit around my family commitments-who knows sometime in the future I might be able to work full time. For more information about the Healthcare Opportunities for Women or to register your interest, please contact Nichola Grufferty at [email protected] This project is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014 - 2020.