‘I didn’t think back then I could stay clean for a minute’
Nicola Quinn who has been drug free for two and a half years is encouraging people to apply for the Tommy Gilson Education Support Fund

‘I didn’t think back then I could stay clean for a minute’

AS THE Tommy Gilson Education Support Fund opens for 2022, recipient Nicola Quinn shares her story of recovery, education and future hope to work within her community helping others.

Four years ago, Nicola, who lives in Tallaght, linked in with JADD (Jobstown Assisting Drug Dependency) for help with her addiction problems, which included drugs and alcohol.

To support Nicola, JADD connected her with the Tallaght Rehabilitation Project, where she spent 18 months on its Day Programme, actively engaging in a therapeutic process of recovery.

Speaking with The Echo this week, Nicola, who has been drug free for two-and-a-half years, looked back to 2018.

“Not in a million years did I think I would be where I am today,” Nicola said.

“I didn’t think back then that I could stay clean for a minute, let alone two-and-a-half years.

“I wouldn’t give up [where I am today] for the world…”

Last year, Nicola applied for the Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Task Force’s education bursary, a €16k fund for people in recovery who wish to explore or progress their educational or career prospects.

The bursary has been renamed the Tommy Gilson Education Support Fund, following the passing of community worker Tommy in October 2020.

The annual fund now operates in memory of Tommy who was a strong advocate for community education and the difference it can make, particularly to people in recovery.

After being successful in her bursary application, Nicola started a Community Development course in An Cosán, Jobstown, and is halfway through her first year.

“I was never academic in school… and I was afraid of my life going back into education,” Nicola said.

“However, there’s loads of support from the teachers… and I was able to do it when I got there.

“Initially I didn’t know if I could do it, but I just kept getting myself into that seat, kept getting myself there.

“I had no belief in myself but when I got a distinction in my first module, that kept me going and helped me to see that I was better than I thought I was.

“Doing something I never did before built my self-esteem, I realised I was more than drugs.”

Nicola is also training to be a project worker through a CE Scheme at Tallaght Rehabilitation Project, after which she hopes to continue her studies in Maynooth.

Only a few minutes into a conversation with Nicola and her interest and passion for learning, and using that learning to benefit her community, is evident.

“I really enjoy working with my community and working with people,” Nicola said.

“I want to stay working in the community and help build people up, help them build their confidence, help them to see that there is a better way of living than drugs.”

Encouraging people to apply for the bursary, Nicola said: “Many people let their heads tell them that they’re not good enough.

“I’d encourage people to take the leap and apply [for the bursary], see what doors open for them.

“I would not have been able to go back to education without this bursary, it helped me so much.”

Last year, a total of €15,516 was allocated to 22 applicants who accessed a range of courses, including counselling and psychotherapy, addiction studies, social care, journalism, beauty, social science, barbers and driving lessons.

The fund is available to people currently residing or accessing drug specific services in the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force area, and who are in recovery from alcohol and substance misuse.

According to Grace Hill, task force co-ordinator: “We know all about barriers to progression when people are coming out of recovery, and we don’t want education to be one of these barriers.

“The bursary has been running possibly 18 years…and we’ve seen the value it’s having in people’s lives.

“That €16,000 fund goes a long way.”

Remembering Tommy, Grace said: “Tommy was hugely passionate about education.

“He was great at seeing the potential in people, building their confidence and encouraging them to apply for the bursary.”

According to Grace, the task force believed it was “very fitting” to name the bursary in memory of Tommy, who found JADD with wife Chrissie in 1996.

The fund is run in partnership with the South Dublin County Partnership, which talks through a range of options with applicants, supporting them onto the best pathway for them.

For further details call Grace on 4649303, email Fiona.murphy@sdcpartnership.ie or visit www.tallaghtdatf.ie

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