When 10 years ago, our efforts to meet the needs of the younger children in our community were recognised with Government funds to build a permanent home, we decided this had to be somewhere where the children had access to nature.
We set our eyes on Raheen Woods, an old oak forest. This is the home of the oldest oak in Ireland, over 1,000 years old and known as the Boru Oak after the last high king of the Irish, who reigned at that time, and had his palace ‘Kincora’ in the nearby town of Killaloe.
The land was expensive and obtaining planning was not easy but once we realized that our only neighbours inside this woodland were the elderly from the local nursing home, we knew we were in front of our dream location.
Ever since we decided to offer the young children a ‘home from home’ and started to look at how to accomplish this, we looked back at the time when here, in this rural part of the west of Ireland where most people were farmers, the young children of the house were left in the care of their grandparents. This gave the elderly in the families a sense of purpose, when they were not able to do physical work any longer, and gave the children the quiet company that is best at this time in life.
Before we started building, I moved to an old house deeper in these woodlands that had been the living quarters of the servants of the Quaker family that 300 years ago owned these woodlands.
One day I went to the nursing home and offered to volunteer in the wards of the dying and the very old men and women who were not able to leave their beds anymore. I sat by their bedside and rubbed rose oil into their hands and feet. Sometimes we just stared into each other’s eyes in silence. I remember that a wonderful big very old man, with farmer hands said to me one day: ‘I hope they are paying you well for what you are doing here’ and I said; ‘yes they are’ as every day when I left, I felt so enriched and my heart so wide open.
I felt what a pity that most children no longer have the enriching experience of the company of their grandparents and the opportunity to absorb their moral qualities, especially during these first years when absorbing the goodness in their surroundings is what they mostly do. This gave us the impulse to find a way to bring our children closer to these ‘grandparents’.
Now eight years later, we succeeded in our application for funds to develop an intergenerational garden on part of our land adjacent to the nursing home. Here we envision our children playing at the feet of our elderly neighbours, taking a step forward in our relationship that until now was limited to occasional visits with Easter eggs, Christmas carols, Brigit’s Crosses and Halloween pumpkins.
We are also planning on installing raised beds, aware of the joy and the need that these venerable neighbours would get from digging their hands into the soil.
We feel very privileged that our children will have the experience of veneration, gratitude and responsibility for the wonderful world that they are inheriting.
Lina Pelaez, Founder and Director at
Raheen Woods Estate,
Co. Clare IRELAND