Innovative internship programme for people with disabilities celebrates 10 years

November 24 2023, 11:08am

Kare celebration

DFI Member Organisation Kare and Naas General Hospital (NGH) have celebrated a decade of transformative impact through Project SEARCH, a pioneering internship programme for people with intellectual disabilities.

The occasion was marked with an event in NGH, attended by Anne Rabbitte TD, Minister of State for Disability in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and Senator Fiona O’Loughlin.

Project SEARCH is a unique collaborative initiative launched by Kare and NGH in 2013, providing young adults with an intellectual disability the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience and pursue their career goals. Participants engage in a year-long internship programme based at the hospital that supports them to gain a broad range of skills and prepare them for the workforce.

The Project SEARCH model originated at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and now has program sites throughout the United States and the United Kingdom (DFN Project SEARCH). This initiative led by Kare and NGH is the first and only Project SEARCH model in the Republic of Ireland to date. Since its inception it has welcomed 116 students, with 72% securing paid employment upon program completion, significantly surpassing the national average employment rate for people with intellectual disabilities which is 6%.

In addition to practical work experience, Project SEARCH students can also access an educational component, supported through collaboration with organisations like the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board, and County Kildare Leader Partnership.

Minister Rabbitte commented: “The value and impact of Project SEARCH over the last ten years is clear to see – not only for career development but also promoting overall well-being and inclusivity. This collaboration between Kare and Naas General Hospital serves as a model for other institutions, emphasizing the importance of a holistic approach to education and skill development for individuals with disabilities.”

Kare CEO, Deirdre Murphy, commented: "As we celebrate this important Project SEARCH milestone, we reflect on a decade of empowerment, growth, and meaningful contributions to our community. This initiative embodies our commitment to creating a more inclusive society where everyone, regardless of ability, can pursue their aspirations. The program emphasizes the importance of inclusive education and equal access to employment, aligning with Kare's mission to support individuals with intellectual disabilities We are immensely proud of the impact and success stories that Project SEARCH has generated over the years and look forward to many more achievements in years to come.”

General Manager of NGH, Kieran McDonald, said: “Through our partnership with Kare, Project SEARCH has played a pivotal role in fostering inclusivity, education, and employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The success of Project SEARCH demonstrates the positive impact that can be achieved through collaboration, dedication, and a steadfast belief in the potential of every individual.”

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Photo: Pictured left to right: Minister Anne Rabbitte TD, Minister of State for Disability; Ryan Doyle and Julie Manzor, Project Search participants; Kieran McDonald, NGH General Manager; and Deirdre Murphy, Kare CEO.