This attractive signage on the front wall of a beautiful terraced house on Bishop Street, Derry, announces the sanctuary of Cúnamh. I would call it the heart of Derry.

I’ve been both honoured and blessed to be invited to Cúnamh to deliver Inspire’s mindfulness programme for the walking wounded of our traumatic troubled past.

When you cross the threshold and walk through the hall door, you are welcomed with hospitality of such warmth that would it melt an iceberg.

 

The warmth is generated by the compassionate staff whose hearts beat to the rhythm of kindness. What blows my mind is that I have been visiting Cúnamh for a number of years now and the greeting remains the same.

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Cúnamh is a rich therapeutic oasis where folk from near and far can access a wealth of resources from talking therapies, mindfulness, reflexology and a host of other services that meet the needs of the community.

The walls, both inside and outside the house, memorise the past and shed light on the therapeutic thread of those who previously graced the rooms.

On my most recent visit last Tuesday, I got the chance to see the recent marvel of the  back yard transformed into a garden refuge bedecked with flowers, comfort seating and decorated walls that include a recent mural for a member's departed sister who lost her life to suicide. The mural was funded through group members who did a sponsored walk to highlight suicide.

I also enjoyed a beautiful lunch and conversation where the craic was ninety as staff brought me up to date with recent happenings in Cúnamh (the Irish for Help) and in Derry. The staff that I dined with are Michaela, Deirdre and Carol. Three of the kindest women who are part of the backbone of Derry’s resilience.

I was brought up to date with new therapies that folk can engage in and we talked at length about the transformed back yard and all the hard work that went into the masterpiece where people can rest in the comfort of nature with visions of Donegal adorning the walls.

There are frequent outings to nearby Donegal as part of the fellowship of Cúnamh and these outings are definitely a favourite of the groups, outings that bring people closer together, that enrich the blessings of the day with a healthy vibrancy that would kickstart any troubled heart and bring a smile to your face.

Cúnamh is a magical place and one that I would signpost everyone to visit to discover the human potential that breeds resilience to cope with the remnants of our troubled past.

HEARTBREAK: New mural to the late Stephanie at Cúnamh
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HEARTBREAK: New mural to the late Stephanie at Cúnamh

It was with heavy heart that I learnt of the untimely death of Donncha Mac Niallais, veteran republican, former blanket man and a leader in the efforts to resolve the Orange marching dispute in his beloved Derry. Donncha's sister Cathy is the driving force behind Cúnamh and my heart goes out to her, to her mum Mary and to all her grieving family at this hard time. I know the Cúnamh family will embrace her with love and compassion to help ease her breaking heart. Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh Donncha cóir.