This episode features a conversation with Cork man Don O'Leary. Don is the Director of the Cork Life Centre, which is a voluntary organization established over 20 years ago to offer an alternative learning environment to young people aged 12-18 who have not thrived or coped in a mainstream educational setting.
I have visited the centre as a guest speaker in the past and witnessed first-hand the loving and creative environment in which young people can flourish. The centre has struggled to receive state support and recognition and the first few minutes of the podcast include some updates and insights from Don concerning the battle to stay open in recent months despite the centre winning widespread acclaim, and being the feature of a major TV documentary, among other accolades, which has included Don receiving an honorary doctorate from University College Cork.
There's lots more in this conversation including Don's reflections on a lifetime of youth and community work and social activism, his thoughts on the recent tribute concert for him by folk music legend and previous podcast guest Christy Moore, and lots on his critiques of social, economic and education inequalities.
Don also shares openly about his experience of living with a terminal illness and how he has responded to that challenge with great grace, strength and dignity.
There's so much we didn't get to talk about including his overland visit to Ukraine as part of an Irish community fundraising and war relief effort. At the heart of the conversation is a passionate appeal for greater care, support, love and investment in children and young people, especially those that are on the margins.