Unless you know where to look, you won’t notice the vibrant, multicultural national school cloistered behind the red brick walls at St. Finbarr’s in Cork city centre.
Sixteen dedicated professionals from nearby AIB offices now navigate their weekly walk from the Mall to St. Marie’s of the Isle with familiar confidence since they became part of the school’s story last October.
Carmel Healy, Principal of St. Marie’s of the Isle, met us last autumn and gave us the history of the school, established in 1851, and it transpired – as it often does in Cork – that mothers and grandmothers of some of the AIB volunteers had been educated there (it was girls only back in the day).
The school has come a long way in the last century and a half and today it’s a thriving microcosm of Cork, welcoming many different nationalities and cultures from local communities and boys are also part of the story.
The children on the Time to Read journey with AIB are thoroughly enjoying the programme. They relish their weekly chats about soccer – Messi still seems to be the most popular player in the world for 7 year olds – and the secret lives of fairies that live behind the skirting boards!
“Time to read has had a very positive impact on the children involved and the school in general” says Carmel, “The children look forward to the reading sessions every week and have developed a great relationship with their reading buddies. Some of the more reluctant readers are really enjoying it and have started taking books to read at home. The AIB volunteers have been fantastic and we’re so grateful to them for their time. “
The volunteers from AIB are enjoying it just as much – it’s very different from what they’d normally be doing first thing Tuesday mornings – and they return to the office refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
AIB Co-ordinator and volunteer reader herself, Siobhan O’Neill, says “…the volunteers are thrilled with it and the feedback is really positive. It’s been a great initiative to be involved with and is the highlight of most volunteers’ week….other colleagues keep asking me if they can be included so essentially I have a waiting list for the next time.”
It’s a privilege to be part of the narrative of St. Marie’s of the Isle and the educational journey of the 16 boys and girls on the Time to Read programme.
Thank you to Carmel and the staff in St. Marie’s and all the AIB volunteers, for making it all possible.