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It takes a village… like Tulla

THE popular TV series Raised by the Village is back on RTE 1 and episode 2 features troubled Dublin teen Alex come to stay on a dairy farm in Tulla with the Hayes family.
It airs this Sunday night, March 31, and Maureen Hayes says she got her family got involved after she saw a post on Facebook, looking for participants.
“I had seen the previous shows and I thought it was a lovely thing to do for a city kid to bring them down and give them a baptism of fire on a dairy farm,” she said.
“I always thought when I was younger that I’d like to be an emergency foster mother. It never materialised but I have four children of my own and I thought this would be an opportunity to give a child an opportunity and a different perspective on life.”
Her own children range in age from 12 to 19, and they had a few concerns when the idea was first put to them.
“They were a bit apprehensive at first, but I was explaining to them that unbeknownst to themselves they are completely privileged and it’d be no harm for them to see what another side of life is like, as well as being able to see how a TV show is made.
“We all want to have as many opportunities as possible for our children and this was the only opportunity for them to see how a TV show is done. They were very quick to come into line and said they’d give it a try.”
Coming out of Balbriggan, the idea was for Alex to get an immersive experience away from the city and Maureen and her family made sure she got exactly that.
“The ethos of the show is to show her how her life is. We didn’t change anything in what we did, we just had our completely normal few days, and she got to see how we live. I didn’t change anything,” she said.
“This is a dairy farm and at around four or five o’clock every day in our house, it’s all hands on deck. They go into the shed and there are cows to be milked or someone might have to put out lime or sweep down cubicles or feed calves.
“She was allocated a job as well. She was very compliant, whatever we asked her to do, she did.
“I just treated her like one of my own children. She got a job, when she came home she sat down at the table and we all had our dinner, then we played board games, or went to the cinema or whatever was on for the evening. The next morning she was up at eight o’clock, milking cows, doing whatever jobs have to be done, as we would do normally here.”
While it was a bit of a culture shock for Alex, she must have enjoyed it, because she has been back in Tulla several times since the show was filmed last October, with more visits coming up. “I think she loved it. She has been back to us about four times since, and from the day she arrived to my door she has been a model child.
“She was so good, she went with the flow, did whatever she was asked to do, there was no strop, she was just perfect. She never said one wrong word the whole time she was here. As I said she has been back four times since and she’s coming again for a few days at Easter.”
As well as working on a dairy farm, she has had some of the social experiences a teenage girl growing up in East Clare would have.
“The last time she came down she was brought to the Queens disco with my daughter, so she had that experience of getting ready with all the girls for two days beforehand with the layers of fake tan,” she said.
“That was an experience she had never had in Dublin, she said she had never been at a teenage disco like that.”
Maureen feels she has made a lot of progress since she first met the family.
“I think she has matured and developed an awful lot since the show,” she said.
Maureen also feels Alex likes talking and learning from her.
“She talks to me, talks about school, and I try to tell her that education is so important and I do think she listens. Any teenager is going to listen to their own mother but they might listen to someone else’s,” she said.
In general she has had lots of opportunities arising from the programme.
“She never saw a cow in her life till she arrived here. She has milked cows, done whatever jobs need to be done with them,” she said.
“I have a sister in Cratloe and as part of the show they need to go to see other mentors in the community. One of the mentors she went to was my sister Linda Gallagher and she has a horse and goat farm. One of the days she went down there to work with her. She was tagging goats down there and feeding goats and feeding horses. Again it was the first time ever touching a horse, first time feeding a goat.
“She went with the Tulla Tidy Towns another day, she was picking up rubbish, tidying up around a graveyard, that kind of stuff.
“Volunteering in the community was completely alien to her, she was saying her friends would only laugh at her if she was involved in something like that. I was explaining to her the benefits of being part of a community and of volunteering in the community.”
The whole experience has been good for her own family too, Maureen feels. “I think that they have benefited unbeknownst to themselves. Alex would be talking about things in Dublin and her normal life, which would be completely alien to theirs. It opens their horizons as well. Life isn’t just in Tulla, there’s a whole world beyond it, and I think we’ve all been enriched by her coming to us.”

Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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