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We were thrilled and honoured to receive the overall Grand Prix award and Gold in the Best Community Health category of the All Ireland Community & Council Awards 2021, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dublin on Saturday 9th April 2022 for our ‘Relationships matter: building ACE awareness in the community’ initiative.

The Awards recognise and celebrate community and councils working together. They provide a great opportunity to highlight and celebrate the work done within our communities, to reward unsung heroes and recognise the phenomenal contribution they’ve made. The Best Community Health Initiative category is sponsored by Healthy Ireland.

Our winning initiative involves providing free and facilitated screenings of the critically acclaimed documentary about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), ‘Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope’ to diverse community-based practitioners throughout Ireland.

Our aim is to raise frontline practitioners’ awareness of ACEs and to highlight the role supportive relationships play in buffering the negative impact of adversity.

We have shared the documentary with 625 frontline practitioners over the last three years, including collaborative screenings with Let’s Grow Together Infant & Childhood Partnership and North Presentation Primary School in Cork.

With an emphasis on early intervention, attendees have included early years professionals, teachers, youth & community development workers, family resources workers, healthcare and allied professionals, social care and social work teams, speech & language therapists and many more disciplines.

Jim Sheehan, director of SHEP, said: “This award is a timely and wonderful tribute to the work of Dr Maeve Hurley, founder of Ag Eisteacht and now a trainer with us on our Relationships in Practice programme, for this innovative approach to supporting community health. It is also a fitting tribute to the Relationships in Practice team, both past and present, and to all of the frontline practitioners who have attended, collaborated and engaged with this initiative to date.”

Dr Maeve Hurley said: “Evidence shows that ACE awareness is a first step in supporting those who have experienced adversity. By creating a safe, supportive space where practitioners can watch the documentary and discuss its content and impact in a peer setting, our aim is to reach practitioners who are already well-placed in communities to use the knowledge and awareness of the impact of ACES to help their client groups to make sense of their experiences of adversity, and in the longer term, help to break intergenerational cycles of adversity.

“We believe that frontline practitioners hold huge potential to make a difference in people’s lives by taking this important information and broadening and deepening their awareness of human experience and adversity – for themselves and others – and use that in the work to take a more compassionate approach, wondering ‘what has happened’ to someone rather than ‘what’s wrong’ with them.  This change in perspective alone has a powerful impact on how a frontline practitioner might feel about themselves, their work colleagues and how they might relate at work.  

“There are now 625 more ACE-aware frontline practitioners working in schools, healthcare and community settings throughout Ireland with a more compassionate mindset, and who hold the potential to think about how we might address some of the inequalities that are often the root cause or contribute to childhood adversity.”

We have also undertaken a thematic analysis of feedback from the screenings, structured around five core themes that emerged from group discussions. It presents a range of information, data and knowledge, including 50 evidence-based messages of hope, along with a comprehensive reference, resources and tools in appendices to support professionals to open up new ways of thinking about what we can do to become more aware and compassionate towards children and adults with histories of ACEs and toxic stress.

Frontline practitioners interested in receiving a digital copy of ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences: 50 reasons to support relationships in practice’, please contact: