SHE’S the 2018 Connect Kerry Community Champion, but Recovery Haven Kerry founder Marian Barnes is almost embarrassed by all the fuss being made of her since her win last month.
Anyone who knows Marian knows that she is probably the most humble lady you are ever likely to meet, and that the passion, dedication and love she has for the charity she founded back in 2009 comes purely from a desire to help those going through cancer and their families – and not about seeing her name in lights.
That being said, Marian is absolutely overwhelmed and honoured to have been chosen by judges as this year’s Community Champion, saying that she feels truly humbled, given the ladies she was up against.
“I just couldn’t believe that I won because all the ladies in the category deserved the award too. They have all done amazing work in the community, so for me to win was a real honour,” Marian said.
“I can’t thank Mags (Kissane) and the judges enough because my win brings huge awareness of Recovery Haven, which is great. I am truly honoured and feel very privileged.”
Well known the length and breadth of the county for her unyielding charity work, Knocknagoshel native Marian worked for 20 years as the Breast and Stoma Care Nurse in Kerry General Hospital until her retirement in 2012.
Through interaction with others in the profession, it became apparent to Marian that there was a lack of professional support for patients once they had departed from the medical model of diagnosis and treatment, with many left worried and alone.
With that at the forefront of her mind, Marian wanted to create a safe ‘haven’ where these people could get that support, and so in early 2009 the plans started in earnest.
A committee was formed, a premises was purchased with donated funds that had become available when Breast Cancer services were transferred to Cork – and by November 2009, Recovery Haven Kerry was a registered charity.
“FÁS came on board and transformed the
premises into a wonderful, tranquil place for welcoming and helping our visitors, to allow them to regain control of their lives,” Marian explained. “After much work and several fabulous fundraising events by the people of Kerry, Recovery Haven officially opened on September 3rd 2010.”
To this day, the charity continues to offer caring and therapeutic services to those who have experienced cancer, their families and carers in a tranquil environment in Tralee – with outreach services in Killarney and most recently Killorglin.
Since the foundation Marian has worked tirelessly on the ground to support, promote and fundraise for the charity she dearly loves, and despite stepping down from the Board of Directors this March after almost 10 years, she continues to form an integral part of the busy team.
“When we set about creating Recovery Haven, I could never have imagined just how important a facility it would become to so many people around the county,” Marian said. “We now have outreach services in Killarney and Killorglin, as well as the main house in Tralee, which is wonderful.”
Knowing just how much the charity is helping people is also hugely important to Marian.
“ I feel so privileged when I meet someone who has been though the trauma of cancer and has used the centre and are now getting on with their lives thanks to the support and understanding they received at Recovery Haven,” she said. “I also get most satisfaction from driving past Recovery Haven and knowing that I was part of creating a much needed service that I hope will continue to grow and flourish.”
Since opening its doors, Recovery Haven Kerry has continued to deliver caring and therapeutic services to those who are experiencing cancer, their families and carers free of charge in a tranquil and safe environment. Last year, there were just over 2,000 attendances to the cancer support centres across the county – a record for the charity – and already this year, attendances have reached over 1,000, with counselling sessions increasing by 100 per cent in the first five months of the year.
The charity also provide free
complementary therapy sessions such
as Reiki, Reflexology and Massage; we run a men’s and women’s cancer support group, bereavement support, arts and crafts, mindfulness courses, Pilates classes, walking groups, a wig clinic fitting service, HSE bra and prosthesis fitting service and information talks.
While Marian’s dedication and commitment to the charity she helped build from humble beginnings is inspiring to everyone who works alongside her, an ever-humble Marian says that the charity simply would not function without its amazing volunteers, fundraisers and manager, Siobhan MacSweeney.
“Without our volunteers and Siobhan as manager, we simply could not open our doors. It’s these people who oversee the day to day running of Recovery Haven that keep the doors open and I am extremely grateful to them for their ongoing support.”
Marian also paid tribute to the people of Kerry, whose goodwill and incredible generosity never cease to amaze her.
“Unfortunately, we don’t get any funding from the HSE so our fundraisers and the people of Kerry who continues to support us are the ones we really need to thank,” she said, “The support we receive is overwhelming and I just want to acknowledge that and say how grateful we really are.”