Donegal's White Oaks finding innovative ways to support clients

Online communication invaluable tool for those dealing with addiction

Fr Neal Carlin

Fr Neal Carlin praises Donegal's White Oaks for finding innovative ways to support clients during pandemic

A Donegal addiction treatment centre has adopted an innovative approach to supporting its clients, in the face of the current coronavirus restrictions.

The White Oaks Centre at Derryvane in Lenamore, on the outskirts of Derry City, offered a residential programme comprising group and individual therapies, pre-coronavirus lockdown.

The organisation helped people to address the complex issues involved in a dependency on alcohol, prescription and illegal drugs, and gambling.

Speaking to Donegal Live, Fr Neal Carlin, the Spiritual Director at White Oaks, confirmed the organisation had decided to temporarily discontinue the residential programme, as a result of the social distancing guidelines.

Fr Carlin added: “We have suspended the residential aspect of the White Oaks programme because we couldn’t do our groupwork or our individual work.

“White Oaks depended on families coming in on a Wednesday. We kept it going as long as we could but then, because we couldn’t take in new people, for the sake of those who were already there and the staff, which is quite a number of people, 10 people alone, we rightly decided White Oaks would have to close.

“However, undeterred, the White Oaks staff are doing an awful lot of good work online. I don’t understand ‘Zoom’ [video communications tool] but they are able to use it to do group work and our former White Oaks residents are connected right up.

“Our staff have developed innovative ways of carrying on their work, I have to hand it to them. There is good healthy communication and our former residents are receiving good reading material. It was one of those things that couldn’t keep because of the nature of the disease,” said Fr Carlin.

With the temporary cessation of the White Oaks residential programme, Fr Carlin has offered the four chalets at the facility to any medical staff having to live apart from their families.

He said: “We are 10 minutes from Altnagelvin and 25 minutes from Letterkenny University Hospital. We have contacted the health services so that frontline medical staff would have accommodation, which would help them isolate from family or vulnerable relatives.”

Fr Carlin, who is approaching his eightieth birthday shortly, feels the 12 Step Programme followed at White Oaks has lessons for the wider Inishowen community dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “The First Step is that ‘we are powerless over this disease. The Second Step is that ‘I have come to believe in a power greater than myself that can keep me from insanity. And, the Third Step is ‘a daily effort, one day at a time, I hand my life over to the higher power. Different people have different notions of God. He is so big, none of us have a handle on him.

“As Pope Francis said in his beautiful ‘Urbi et Orbi’, we thought because we were so busy making money and spending money, that we were going to be self-sufficient, and that we didn’t need not only God or other people.

“Nobody wants a disease like this. God above all wouldn’t want it but good can come out of it. If we learn. What I see in society, every day in the news is the tremendous generosity of people. That’s in people and thank God it is still there because there were times when you wondered where it had gone.

“This is a Kairos time, an opportune time to go back to somewhere else, when we do get back, please God, Kairos is a catalyst for change,” said Fr Carlin.

Fr Carlin viewed Easter and Holy week as an “opportunity to emphasise God’s presence in his word.”

He elaborated: “God is present not just in the holy Eucharist but in the word of God and in the goodness of people. Because we won’t have the Holy Week and Easter ceremonies, the Bishop will be laying on online events from St Eugene’s Cathedral.

“However, on Good Friday, my suggestion would be to imagine two or three Stations of the Cross. For example, ‘Jesus is condemned to death.’ You get the kids in your family to get a few pictures of that hands tied and to think of the innocent people that are being punished and put to death for their beliefs and their faith. And you pray for them. Children are going to remember forever what they did on Good Friday at home with their parents.

“On Holy Saturday night, a family might sit down together, light a candle and say the Creed, going through it, thinking about wee bits of it and then put the candle on the window to illustrate their faith, in God and Christ, the risen light of the world and just sing together a wee hymn together, ‘The light of Christ has come into the world.’ Someone could read the Gospel passage, with a torch, about Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb and Jesus speaking to her and someone else could light the candle in the dark.

“If that had happened in my home when I was a child, I would never have forgotten it. It is personalising the faith. There is a sense of praying for people, praying for the sick. This will pass but I think the process of the journey we are taking before the end of it can be a quiet learning curve,” said Fr Carlin.

To enquire about the White Oaks accommodation, contact: IOSAS Centre, Derryvane: 0749384866.



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