It’s been a busy year for the Good Shepherd Centre Men’s Shed.
What started out as a room for men to gather and play games or darts and have a cup of tea has grown into a bustling workshop with great plans for the future.
They’ll be celebrating the shed’s first birthday next week, and form the looks of it there is plenty to be cheerful about.
Men’s Sheds are originally an Australian concept – in fact there are some 600 Men’s Sheds Down Under – and spread to Ireland in 2009. The idea is to have a place where men can gather for whatever activities they choose, to give them an outlet to meet other people, find new hobbies and learn new skills.
At the Good Shepherd Centre, it started out as a Men’s Shed room inside the house, where men would come for board games, cards, darts, foosball or just a cup of tea and a chat. Shortly before Christmastime last year, they then came up with the idea for an actual shed – which the centre was fortunate to have available on its premises, said life skills co-ordinator Ann Jones.
So the men went in and cleared out the junk, put in a partition to create their own space, and built counters and work benches. They received donations of some power tools and hand tools – and further donations of tools or off-cuts of timber would be most welcome, Ms Jones said, as funding isn’t available for them.
An eight-week carpentry course is currently running in the Men’s Shed on Tuesday afternoons, complementing the gardening course in the centre’s Veg Shed on every second Monday, which is open to men and women.
It’s usually attended by about 10 men, who might be making something for the Good Shepherd house, or working on their own projects. They have recently been commissioned to make a garage door, they are working to repair two bikes that were donated to them, and they are also planning to build herb boxes and flower boxes for a veg sale that the Veg Shed is hoping to host in May.
Each Men’s Shed has its own unique character, depending on those who participate, the location and the type of building – which ranges from sheds to rooms or even a shipping container.
“It’s basically to offer a social outlet to men. Research has shown that social isolation leads to poor health and poor mental health,” Ms Jones said. “So they are getting out of the house and doing something different for a couple of hours – one of the lads says it keeps him out of the pub.”
The men might be retired, unemployed or working part-time, and men age 18 and up are welcome. Those at the Good Shepherd’s Men’s Shed currently range from their 20s to their 70s.
“It is open to men in the community who are at risk of social isolation, and the ethos is that it is open to all men, no matter what their ability or background,” Ms Jones said. “They all bring their own skills and learn from each other.”
The centre’s life skills programme is funded by State Street, and the Vocational Education Committee (VEC) provides money for the tutor hours, but the Men’s Shed itself is self-funding.
Anyone wanting to take part can contact 056 7722566 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and more information is available at www.menssheds.ie.