Where did the idea for this project come from?

The idea for this project arose out of very deep work that has happened over the past few years with individuals who are moving from Cheshire Homes into their new homes in the community. I, Gertrude Cotter, the developer of this archive, was one of two Community Transition Coordinators in Cheshire Cork at that time, who worked with two individuals in particular  to support them for what is a very big step in their lives. It was my absolute privilege to work with Matthew Whitney and Valerie Browne who have impacted my life greatly and who I am honoured to know. We talked a lot about this project for many months and together we decided on what might work best to get stories acorss.

The "moving on" from residential care, was of a very deep nature and has given all three of us a unique understanding and perspective on what this journey means.  I also worked with the families and friends of the individuals concerned.  I have walked alongside people in this journey for a little time and have seen both the highs and the lows, the excitement, the worries, the challenges and the attitudes of many different players who participate in what is a complex transition.  It is a complex story and one which I feel must be told.

Mine was just a slice of life in comparison to the amazing work done by individuals themselves and their families, friends and carers throughout their lives know that their stories are very important, their work really matters and I hope that my  little contribution here honours that work a little in my own small way.

Objective of this Project including Community and Artistic Objectives

1. To provide an online space for people with disabilities who wisht to talk about their journies out of residential care and what that means for them and people around them;

2. To provide a digital archive of policy and practice within Disability Services in Ireland, with particular attention to policies, practice and personal stories which relate to moving out of institutional care;

3.  From an artistic point of view to create short films and digital stories which grapple with complex questions of journies of transition, but which also enable those telling their stories to do so in their way and in a way which shines a light on the essence of who they are.


Why it matters

It matters firstly because the stories of people with disabilities matter. In this site we can hear at first hand how they experience both life in institutional care and also the complexity, highs and lows of a move to mainstream community life. We can hear how what is on the one hand a joyful journey, on the other hand is surrounded by policies, risk management, statutory agencies, voluntary support services, families and friends with mixed views, frustrations, primary care teams, medical professionals, physiotherapists, speech therapists, dieticians, staff, management, budgets, advocates, activists..and in the middle of all this just people trying to get on with their lives.

Many organisations working in the field of disability, have been implementing the new policy on moving out of congregated settings, or trying to. However the importance and significance of the fact that hundreds of members of our communities are moving, has not been visible to the wider population in any meaningful way. For the people involved this move it is of tremendous significance and they have each been working on an individual basis with specialised support staff, to plan their journeys into new communities and to prepare at a very deep level from emotional, physical, financial and self-fulfilling perspectives. It is a unique moment for each individual and a highly unique moment in the history of Ireland. It is one which we feel needs to be celebrated and one which also challenges all of us together as communities to understand how we can work together and what we can all offer one another as members of one community rather than as separate, isolated communities.

Each individual has their own story and working as a group together as “Cheshire residents” is not what is of value in this particular process. What is important is to recognise each person as an individual, with their own unique dreams, expectations, hopes and worries for the future…and how they and all of us together manager their transition to their new communities in Cork.

Gertrude Cotter Archive Creator

Hi there. I am the creator of this site although helped by so many people to bring it to fruition. You will find further information about my life and times at my personal blog site www.gertrudecotter.info  or my social enterterprise site www.globalcitizencontactpoint.com

In relation to this project I had the privilege of working with Matthew Whitney and Valerie Browne for a year in 2014 - 2015. My job with Cheshire Homes in Cork was that of a Community Transition Coordinator.  It was truly one of the most interesting jobs I have ever had and I am grateful to Val and Matt for teaching me so much and especially how to see the world with other eyes.

I have a long history of working in both the community sector and in the third level education system. I have a particular interest in people who are "in transition" or at thresholds in their lives. I worked for many years as the CEO of an organisation working with migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and I have had a life long commitment to social justice issues in general.  One thing that struck me about working with Matt and Val was how many similarities there were between their experience of living in and moving out of residential care and the experience of Asylum Seekers living in the Irish Direct Provision Centres.

While in Cheshire I also took a training course on how to use a Social Roles Valorisation model of working with people with disabilities, moving out of residential care. I found this fascinating in general, although I would also have some critique of the model which you can read about in my post Social Roles Valorisation.

Overall the process of using this model was a very powerful one for all three of us featured in this project.  I hope that as you explore the site you will come to see how seeing the world through other eyes, really doing your best to do so, brings a richness to all our lives and tells us so much about what it means to be human.  I explore these thoughts further in the blog "What I learned".

Further information can be found at my personal site


or at my social enterprise site:




I am grateful to St Laurnce Cheshire Homes Cork and especially the  “Cork Supported Accommodation” section, who partnered with me to apply for the initial Cork County Council "Artist in Context" Award whcih allowed this project to get off the ground. The project will continue as a personal project and hopefully other partners and funders will come along in the future!

Cheshire Homes website states "Cheshire Ireland provides a range of support services to people with both physical and neurological conditions in their homes, in residential centres, in supported accommodation and in stand alone respite facilities. We provide our services to people often with very complex and high support needs. Cheshire Ireland provide services to 281 people in 21 centres in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Wicklow, Limerick, Donegal, Kerry,Carlow, Waterford, Sligo and Mayo. Our aim is to provide quality, person-centred services, which facilitate people with disabilities to live a life of their own choosing. Cheshire Ireland has been established in Ireland for nearly 50 years, with our first centre opening in Ardeen, Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow. We are currently the biggest provider of supported accommodation in the country". See www.cheshire.ie

Cork Supported Accommodation at Cheshire has been in existence since 2006 and provides accommodation for 15 individuals within the Community. Some people who live within this service have never lived in residential care.

However since 2012, due in part to government policy, Cheshire Ireland has been supporting people to move from residential accommodation to their own homes in the community, and to be active citizens with valued roles in society. Cheshire embraced the  recommendations of the 2012 HSE Report 'Time to Move on from Congregated Settings' and is currently working closely with residents in institutional settings (some there for almost fifty years), to support them to move to their own homes across Cork City.  This is a slow process with people moving out into their new homes slowly and over a long time-frame.

Cheshire have been using a model called "Social Roles Valorisation" to work with individuals who wish to move into their own homes.  Further information about SRV can be found on this site at:


Cork City Council Arts Office: Initial Funders

I am very grateful to Cork City Arts Office Arts in Context Award 2015 and I am grateful to Cheshire Homes for collaborating with me for this important application. The Arts office invited organisations and groups to apply for the award which forms part of Cork City Council’s Arts and Cultural Strategy 2011-2015. This grant addresses the strategic aim of nourish and developing ongoing support, with City Council partners, for arts organisations and groups in the city.

The Arts in Context Award aims to provide opportunities for artist and community groups to work together to realise arts projects. It supports projects that take place in community contexts; schools, hospitals, community care settings, youth clubs, prisons, community centres, clubs etc. Artists and the group plan the project together.

I would like to continue this project into the future and should other funders and community partners wish to collaborate I would love to hear from you!

Why Digital Story Telling?

We chose this art form partly because it is accessible to the individuals concerned for practical and creative purposes. Digital stories allow us to become creators of content. The medium allows us to weave together some of the other interests of the individuals concerned such as images, music, text, voice, drawings and animation. The technique enables us to reach an audience with voices that not heard enough in the mainstream.

Stories bring us together, encourage us to understand and empathize, and help us to communicate. Long before paper and books were common and affordable, information passed from generation to generation through this oral tradition of storytelling. We consider Digital Storytelling as the 21st Century version of the age-old art of storytelling with a twist: digital tools now make it possible for anyone to create a story and share it with the world.

People wishing to partake in this project can be given the tools and be supported to show the world in the way they wish to see it in a typical digital story telling format. Participants can help shape, craft and construct their own narratives. They have an opportunity to be open and honest, to share their hopes, dreams and disappointments, and engage with others in enthusiastic, touching, serious and humorous ways.

PhD Research and Student Support

This project also forms part of a PhD research project I have been working on about engaging third level students in social justice work.  This section will be completed later. Bear with me!

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