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International Women’s Day: Melissa Hogan
I am someone who finds the human spirit fascinating and am constantly amazed at our capacity for creativity, ingenuity, and ability to be resilient, especially in the face of adversity. I believe in kindness and compassion and believe they are absolute perquisites to living a meaningful and contented life. I love to be in the presence of beauty ….whether it is watching children playing creatively, absorbing the energy of a setting sun, engaging with friends in a wholesome manner, visiting a home created with love and attention to detail, touching a beautiful fabric or eating a sumptuous meal…..I love the company of my friends, husband and two wonderful sisters I enjoy pottering ……cooking, baking, drawing and going for walks. I am drawn to practices that promote self-care and development
Why Melissa was nominated:
Melissa Hogan set up the Early Focus Project in 1998 with a group of people in what was then Mater Dei Primary school, Basin Lane Dublin 8 and now is St James Primary School. The project was initially set up to provide the children and families with nurturing support within an education setting due to the growing needs of the inner city. The Early Focus Project takes a holistic approach to each child’s development and well-being. The project recognises the importance of building strong consistent relationships with the children in its care. It uses a variety of methodologies that are nurturing and therapeutic in approach with the aim of helping children to feel safe, secure, comforted and regarded. This process, over time, helps the children build resilience, allowing them to feel more secure in their learning environment, resulting in an increased ability to engage with their education process. This project has evolved over the past few years based on the changing and sometimes challenging needs of our children and community.
Initially, the government did fund the project but with cutbacks, Melissa had to look and apply for other ways of funding it. The Early Focus room is available for children who need breakfast in the mornings, children who are overwhelmed by emotions and need a safe place to talk or play. Children with social, emotional or behavioural needs are supported in 1:1 or small groups. Melissa uses her many skills as a highly experienced primary teacher, play therapist, counsellor and much more to give children the encouragement to believe in themselves and understand the strong emotions they are dealing with. She also supports many parents of children which some are past pupils and still trusts her as someone to confide in with their difficulties. Many of the families in the school have experienced serious traumatic events and have not had the support to help them process and deal with it.
Melissa Hogan never asks for any praise and has worked tirelessly over the past twenty years to positively impact so many children and families in Dublin 8. Many children have been given wonderful opportunities to experience school as an enjoyable safe place to learn because of Melissa.
How Melissa feels:
I am humbled in truth. I see what I do each day as something I am called to do and don’t really see it being out of the ordinary. I do believe it is the simple things in life that make all the difference and I believe in the capacity of human connections to transform and heal. I can be quite a shy person and generally do not seek to bring attention to myself …so I have an awkwardness about being nominated if that makes sense ….but felt very touched that Una would do this and am very grateful for her and generous words of affirmation.