Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Gillian Murphy

GILLIAN MurphyGILLIAN Murphy, 32, is the new club leader of the Lisburn Senior Gateway Club. She is married to Brendan and they have a baby daughter, Charlotte. Gillian is currently off on maternity leave but normally works as a sales consultant. She carries out her role with Gateway in the evenings and the occasional weekend.

The Senior Gateway Club is a leisure club for adults with learning disabilities. Gillian used to help out at the Junior Club when she was a teenager before moving away to go to University. When she returned to the area her mother told her the Senior Club in Lisburn were looking for volunteers and Gillian offered her services and has been helping out ever since.

I am a busy full time mum at the moment but I am involved with the Lisburn Senior Gateway Club once a week. On a Wednesday night at about 6.30pm I head to Lagan Valley hospital. I go on one of the buses we organise to collect some of the club members. We normally arrive at the centre on the hospital site for 7.30pm.

A roll call will be taken for safety reasons and then we start to organise the range of activities including games and dancing. After games like bingo we do a pub quiz. During the week I think of questions to ask and sort out the photograph round and print the sheets off. I spend the evening supervising, making sure all the members are ok and enjoying their evening. During these club nights we run a wide variety of activities, such as arts and crafts, snooker competitions, quizzes, games nights and we are currently making Christmas cards to be entered into the Mencap Christmas card competition.

We also run discos for special events like Valentines, Easter, and Christmas, and we held a fancy dress party for Halloween, with prizes going to the best costume.

Half way through the night tea and biscuits are served and we have a tuck shop too. Then its back to games and towards the end of the evening we put music on so the members can have a dance.

The buses arrive to pick the members up. I don't act as a guide at the end, instead I help tidy up and make sure everyone is on the right bus, lock up the room and hand the keys to reception before going back to my own home and catching up with my husband before bed time.

As well as helping out once a week I am also involved with the organising of weekends away. The breaks require a lot of planning and sorting out. Medical forms have to be completed and suitable locations which meet our accommodation and food requirements must be met. It really does give the members something to look forward too.

I enjoy helping out with the club because I see how much the members benefit from it. Interacting with people with learning difficulties is very rewarding. When you hear about their backgrounds and what some of the members have experienced it really makes you sit up and think. You never hear them complaining about their challenges or if they need an operation they don't moan or feel sorry for themselves.

It really is a great social outlet for people to meet and make friends and I would encourage others who are interested in volunteering to come onboard. If anyone would be interested in volunteering in the club either as a guide on one of our buses or within the club for two hours on a Wednesday night please contact me on 07518236942.

Ulster Star