Tony Walsh (Project Manager)
Tony Walsh started out on a 30 - year career with the Irish Prison Service in the late 1970s. Very early in his career he identified a need for fundamental change in management dynamics, staff-inmate relationships and for a new focus on prisoner support and rehabilitation. Tony began to carve out a path as a project manager that would turn out to be a life-long drive and mission to:
- Ask the questions and identify new goals that would support, help and rehabilitate inmates
- Build buy-in, consensus and participation from staff and management
- Develop and implement these new ideas into workable projects and programmes
Tony became involved in Staff Welfare under the auspices of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in the Irish Prison Service and went on to study Social Support in the Workplace with NUI Galway/FAS. He worked to develop an environment where staff dealt with inmates with understanding and support as opposed to judgement or fear. Over the years, Tony went on to study Training and Education at NUI Galway, then going further to gain a certification in counseling and group facilitation work and later a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
As project manager Tony believes that for any group or organisation, keeping the big picture - a holistic view - in mind, is vital when decisions or goals are being considered. From his experience of volunteering in the community and voluntary sector he feels that frequent reviews and being open to new and more efficient and inventive ways of doing things, in a team-like way, are key
In an environment primarily focused on custody and security, Tony was instrumental in setting up voluntary rehabilitation programme for offenders. Success rates were excellent and involvement was on a voluntary basis. Upon further investigation, reasons for non-participation were related to self-esteem, inflexible thinking and literacy problems. As part of a working group Tony helped devise and implement new projects (e.g. Work Group Skills and Thinking Skills programmes) to address obstacles to personal development and positive change. The programmes resulted in higher participation rates on rehabilitation projects.
Following retirement, Tony began to volunteer with Meath Volunteer Centre. He has acted as key facilitator at major meetings where there are many stakeholders. As a project manager and strategist Tony is experienced in working with groups, defining mutual areas of focus, creating a productive interactive environment and reaching consensus.
Tony now volunteers as a project manager with Living Links. Living Links provides support and outreach to those bereaved by suicide. Tony is on call 24 hours a day as the point of contact when Living Links services are needed. Thankfully calls are infrequent but action needs to be swift and focused when need arises. Tony is responsible for:
- Bringing together varying opinions and ideas from across the organisation to define and create clear direction and a working plan for the organisation
- Reviewing, analysing and continually identifying and defining ways to improve the bereavement courses and the emergency service delivered to families in need
- Coordinating and supporting a team of 18 volunteers
- Liaising with Living Links Meath’s Committee on a monthly basis to communicate and receive updates on all work, activities and projects
- Encouraging and motivating individuals who have completed the bereavement course to foster new attendees
When an emergency arises, two trained volunteers go to the bereaved family to listen, pass on information and help in whatever way possible. Tony has helped introduce new processes and arrangements so the situation is wholly less shocking for the family. Living Links run bereavement courses where Tony is also introducing new methods and techniques on an ongoing basis.
Giving a sense of belonging to all team members, in spite of status, injects life into systems that may appear to be functioning but may in fact be imperceptibly in stagnation
Often people ask Tony how he volunteers in such emotional circumstances. Tony’s response is that while the context and details are always highly emotional, as a project manager he is trained to focus on implementing and developing a process of support that works. With this focus in mind, witnessing different forms of grief and strong emotions from individuals in very difficult circumstances is indicative of where they are along the grieving process. Observing the bereaved move through stages of grief, acknowledging difficult and intense feelings can, instead, bring immense joy because he knows the grieving are coming to a place of peace and acceptance where they can begin to move on with their lives again.
As project manager Tony believes that for any group or organisation, keeping the big picture - a holistic view - in mind, is vital when decisions or goals are being considered. From his experience of volunteering in the community and voluntary sector he feels that frequent reviews and being open to new and more efficient and inventive ways of doing things, in a team-like way, are key. Additionally, creating a sense of belonging for all team members, in spite of individual status, injects life into systems and organisations that can appear to be functioning but may in fact be imperceptibly stagnant.
As a long-term project manager Tony also volunteers with other groups in the community and voluntary sector in the following areas:
- Team building
- Empowerment (personal and group)
- Management/Staff Relations (Clarity of management style, clear work roles, dealing with unwelcome behaviours etc)
- Assertiveness (Effectiveness as opposed to aggressive or passive behaviours)