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Sandra Morrissey - Focus Programme

Sandra MorrisseyMy name is Sandra Morrissey. I’m 32 years of age and originally from Tralee, Co. Kerry.
My life has changed so much in the past five years.Today, I live in Cork city, where I study jewellery design. I’m really enjoying my life. Cork is such a vibrant city and I really love what I do. However, just five years ago, things were very different.
I was in a very, very bad place. I had come from a troubled family background and I suffered from depression and severe anxiety. It had reached a point in my life where I didn’t know who I was. I was really just existing; I certainly wasn’t living.
It was at this time that I heard about National Learning Network’s Focus programme in Tralee. The Focus programme is specially designed for people who have experienced mental health difficulties. It provides students with the skills and confidence they need to gain greater independence, to plan further education and employment and to integrate more fully with their local community. It took a lot of courage, but I decided to enrol in the programme and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
When I first started the Focus programme, I was quite simply terrified. I spent the first two weeks just looking at the floor. But I knew that it was a place that I wanted to be; that it was where I needed to be, so I stuck with it. It was such a warm, nurturing and non-judgmental environment that I soon learned to relax. During the course of the year, I found my personality – in fact, it might be more true to say that I actually got a personality – and I learned to laugh.
Throughout my time at National Learning Network the team was wonderful. They respected me and they challenged me, but I never felt under any pressure and I never felt like I was on my own. I didn’t only receive support from the staff. All of the participants on the programme had their own personal battles and difficulties, but we were there for each other. I made friends for life on the Focus programme. In fact, I currently share a house in Cork with a girl that I became friends with while we were both on the programme.
After a year on the Focus programme, I moved on to National Learning Network’s Introductory Skills Training (IST) programme. In addition to developing my computer and presentation skills, IST enabled me to explore different career opportunities based on my own needs and strengths. I’ve always been creative and I love working with my hands, so I guess that jewellery design is the perfect choice for me!
When I come back to Tralee for visits, I try to make a point of calling into the National Learning Network centre to catch up with the Focus instructors and to share my experiences with some of those who are currently on the programme. Hopefully my story might inspire them and show them that, with the help of National Learning Network, they too can turn their life around.
Life is good. I’m so grateful to the staff at National Learning Network for sticking with me and for believing in me. I wouldn’t say that National Learning Network saved my life; I’d say that it gave me a life.