Mary Nally, the serial social entrepreneur

Two weeks ago, as part of the Vizitant project, I visited the Third Age Foundation in Co. Meath – an older people's organization run by older people for older people. The organization was founded by Mary Nally whom I've been priveleged to know since joining the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland network last summer.

The Third Age Foundation is a thriving hive of activity, which won some richly deserved recognition in last Sunday night's Would You Believe (video available) on RTE 1. As well as providing a large number of other services to people in the locality Third Age runs The Senior Helpline, a confidential listening and support service for lonely and depressed elders. The Senior Helpline was a great inspiration for Vizitant and continues to expand having recently opened an office (and helpline) in New York.

But never one to rest on her laurels Mary has also founded Fáilte Isteach. In late of 2006, she became conscious of the day-to-day problems experienced by non-Irish nationals in her village of Summerhill Co. Meath due to their inability to speak English. Her response to the problem was to set up Fáilte Isteach, where older volunteers provide conversational English classes to new migrants in response to the language barriers that they are experiencing in both their working and social lives.
The resources and materials used by Fáilte Isteach deal with real life, everyday situations which we take for granted, such as visiting the doctor, shopping and work related scenarios. Today Fáilte Isteach has 40 students on its roll, from 14 different countries, and 15 volunteer tutors.

Based on this success, Mary has been approached by a number of individuals and communities from different parts of the country expressing interest in starting a similar initiative in their own area. Her challenge now is to help others to replicate her successful Summerhill model. Which I've no doubt she will…. before she goes on to start another social venture!

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