Tag Archives: Eloise

A Balancing Act

By Eloise Sheerin (Trinity)

The beauty of harmony

The beauty of harmony

At home in Ireland I would consider myself to be someone who is a very good judge of character and sincerity. Here I am not so certain. I find myself struggling with contradicting thoughts. It is natural to want to think the best of people but I have found that sometimes this is seen to be naive. I am constantly switching from each extreme of the spectrum. Either I take someone to be genuine and sincere or I am constantly searching for the ulterior motives behind someone’s facade. It is proving hard to find a neutral position.

I feel naive and over optimistic when at the positive end of the spectrum. It is easy to get lead astray into difficult situations when your assumptions were wrong. When we were doing a health meeting in the Chilanga Court I was excited, hopeful and optimistic. I thought everyone understood the approach of Praxis Malawi and how we were trying to empower the community to take matters into their own hands and work together to better their community. We are not here to provide immediate relief but support and long term sustainable relief. We were talking of exchanging knowledge on sexually transmitted infections and family planning. The discussion was in depth and riveting and everyone seemed to be reading off the same page. I felt the empowerment, felt by what I thought was the whole group, but I soon found out that not everyone felt this way. A man came to us and asked us for aid now. I wanted so bad to help him now and give him whatever he needed to get his problem sorted. By doing this I know I am just feeding into the oppression and culture of dependence so evident here. I felt deflated as I dropped my guard and demonstrated naivety.

You can learn to grow a thick skin here.

This kind of experience forces you into a cynical and untrusting frame of mind. I find myself at times expecting that people are lying to get something from me. I start to think that any gesture that appears to be a friendly, nice gesture is just a game to get some prize. I have been pleasantly proved wrong in my thinking thankfully. When visiting the school for the blind, we were warmly welcomed and invited back in the afternoon to observe a choir rehearsal. On returning, the children had changed into nicer clothes and the performance was so breathtaking and moving that I will never be able to forget it. Even while I was sitting watching and listening to this heartfelt and moving exhibition of the magic music can bring to your soul, I was thinking ‘oh sugar’… here comes the request for money. For the last part of the performance, before the electricity cut out and the class was dismissed, I was thinking up possible ways in which they were going to approach us about money or charity. We had deep discussions with the teachers and principal following and not once did they expect or ask for anything from us. Instead they completely understood the approach we had. They discussed how they feel their method of teaching visually impaired students wasn’t adequate for some students who had learning difficulties also. A suggestion was made that they contact the school for learning difficulties and exchange knowledge. They were shocked at how they hadn’t considered this before and wanted to ‘buy’ the idea from us. We assured them it is free and to take initiative and use it. We found out yesterday that they already had a meeting and it was successful!

These experiences boost your trust in humanity. I get a boost and I am back to naivety and over optimism, then I get a blow and I am back to being negative and cynical. This process is cyclic. The problem I have is remaining somewhere where I am prepared for both scenarios. Finding a harmony, like the voices of the school choir. A neutral! I assure you, I am working on it!

Introducing the 2014 Group: Trinity College

Fintan Sheerin

Fintan Sheerin

My name is Fintan Sheerin and I am a lecturer in intellectual disability nursing at Trinity College School of Nursing and Midwifery in Dublin, Ireland. A drop-out from several institutes of higher education, I originally embarked on a life in religion, and entered the seminary of a Roman Catholic missionary congregation. THAT didn’t last long and I am now happily married with four daughters.

As noted, my professional background is in nursing. I am a registered intellectual disability nurse, a registered general nurse and a registered nurse tutor. After 20 years in practice, I took a teaching job in Trinity College where I have been exploring the praxis of social justice among people with an intellectual disability for some years. This has revived my passion for human rights. It is from this background that I have come to Praxis Malawi. I have been asked to coordinate work with the local community around the development of a health initiative or ‘clinic’. This initial and developing dialogue will be the main focus of my work in Malawi and I look forward to working with Canadian, Malawian and Irish colleagues in this regard.


Eloise Sheerin

Eloise Sheerin

My name is Eloise Sheerin. I am one of the Irish crew heading on this exciting trip to Malawi. I will be going with my friend from my college Suzanna and my dad Fintan (also my lecturer!).

I am 20 years old and live in County Cavan, Ireland (in the countryside). I love travelling and have done some of this in Europe mainly. I was an au pair in Switzerland for a year before college where I learned French and a lot of life lessons. I love doing outdoor activities but also snuggling up on the couch for a film or reading a book.

I am a student Intellectual Disability Nurse studying in Trinity College Dublin. I feel that my experience in working with people with intellectual disabilities who are marginalised in our society will help me work with and understand those in a similar position. I also work as a carer for people with intellectual disabilities and behaviour that challenges on weekends and through the holidays for 2 years now. I am glad that I can work and study in the same field.

The part that I probably like the most about this project is that we, as volunteers and the community members, are all working as equals as everyone has an expertise in something and we all have something to learn from each other. We are not simply going over with the idea that we have all the answers to their questions but quite the opposite! I have had to rid myself of any preconceived notions I had and push myself to never assume I know.

I am aware that the community has asked for a health clinic initiative to be discussed and work done to pursue this. I will be helping in this as much as I can with some of the others in the Health team. Hopefully, this will be followed by putting realistic stepping stones in place for something to come.

As my background is in working with people with intellectual disabilities, I would like to tie this into the work we are doing. Suzanna and I have similar ideas in this and will be working together. We want to understand more about the life of people with intellectual disabilities and research people’s knowledge and ideas about them in their community. We would like to encourage inclusiveness into society (if this is not already there) working alongside the other members of the group from Praxis Malawi involved in work such as education and health. An idea formed was to set up a kind of support group (again, if not already done so) for people in the community to talk about and learn from each other about intellectual disabilities from the people themselves, their families, friends and anyone else.

Following from this we would like to introduce an idea of multisensory stimulation for people with intellectual disabilities. This could be a way for inclusion and socialisation. This idea could be developed by the community and they can come up with ways to interact with and support people with intellectual disabilities in their community.

I hope to be able to listen and work towards the desires of the community and leave with a new bountiful knowledge base and an unforgettable experience!