Women in RSS featuring Bernice Alcorn

The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) celebrated its 16th birthday yesterday 7th March 2021. The RSS has been such a success in delivering community support within our area over these years. The RSS is an employment scheme that supports the farming and fishing families of Donegal.
International Women’s Day plays an important role in the lives of women globally and women play an important role within the RSS. To highlight the wonderful and essential work of the RSS female participants we would like to introduce you to Bernice Alcorn who would like to share her story with you.

Bernice’s Story

When I first wanted to join the RSS I did not qualify as the entitlements were in my brother in laws name. But fate had a hand to play in as my husband took over half of the family farm and therefore that enabled me to apply for a position.

It was a Tús supervisor who gave me the information about the RSS. I had been in employment as a chef for some years but had given that up due to family reasons. The thing about being in the catering business is that along with the long unsocial able hours and the heavy lifting of large pots and pans is that no one ever sees the chef. I was invisible. Despite all the hard work and the production of qualify food, I was invisible.

When I was approached to join the RSS I ruled it out as I decided that I was no good at working with people or in an office environment.  In my mind, I had always been a manual worker so therefore I was never going to fit into any other kind of work.  I had been invisible in the kitchens at work and invisible people do not work in offices. Or so I thought. I got a telephone call from a RSS supervisor who explained how the scheme works and the different roles within the scheme and the rest as they say is history.

I joined the RSS in 2017 and from the very start, I became aware that there was a lot of opportunities within the scheme for me. Aside from the catering qualifications, I had not pursued any other training and the RSS had a lot of training and workshops on offer for me.  These were the turning point, the game-changer.

The new RSS work was unfamiliar and foreign to me. I was not equipped to deal with this type of work. So I had two choices… stay where I was or give the RSS a try. I decided on the latter.  The first training course I completed was a one-day course.  I decided there was no point in getting into a state about it. I decided to just attend and try to get it through it. I loved it. I totally enjoyed it. That gave me the boost I needed to sign up for another one but more importantly made me open my mind to more. Some of the courses were practical such as manual handling, IT, first aid and others such as personal awareness, confidence building are more designed to help me do my job. 

Very soon I became aware that I had a voice and an opinion of my own. I realised that I did not have to take criticisms or receive negative comments as I learnt the ability to respond as I became aware that I had a voice and options. I became to understand and realise the important role that I played in my family and farming life, my role as a Health Facilitator on the RSS and the importance of me, Bernice Alcorn.

I love my role within the RSS. I enjoy the work and the flexibility of the RSS to fit in with home and farming life. I love the opportunities that it has given me. I now meet people and talk with them in relation to important life and health issues. I have gained so much insight into life far beyond the home, the farm and catering.

I also learnt that I should not rule anything until I find out more. It would have been very easy for me to not join the RSS because I decided I couldn’t work in any office environment. I made the decision to find out more about the RSS and I am so glad I did. My journey was at my pace with the support of my supervisor and DLDC.

I still have my housework to do and I still time off at certain times of the year to support my husband on the farm. My husband can also plan his day around mine so that if he needs to be away from the farm he can do so in the knowledge that I am at home to keep an eye on things.  That’s essential to us as a family and as a farming business.  I know the lockdown has had a terrible effect on us all, me included. It won’t always be like this. Life will resume back to normal or a new normal as its being called. I am still working albeit via zoom and the like but I am still talking with people, helping people, gaining more experience and knowledge and guess what I am no longer invisible. I am me. Bernice Alcorn”.

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