Our AGM was a real Kairos celebration

There was a great sense of occasion on Tuesday night (29 Nov) when Kairos community – friends, families, residents, staff and trustees past and present – crowded into the Linden Grove dining-room for our first post-pandemic, in-person Annual General Meeting in three years.

Under bobbing silver balloons spelling out KAIROS, Paul Carter, Chairman of Trustees, welcomed everyone and introduced new Trustee Carlo D’Agostino to his first AGM. Floating blue numerals announced 30 years of Kairos itself and 25 to celebrate Bethwin Road’s quarter century, which happens to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the arrival of its first manager, one Mossie Lyons. So plenty to celebrate then. But first trustee Duncan Aitkins, finance officer, summarised the accounts. Kairos is in good shape after a couple of rough years, he reported, and things are going very well. Our income and expenditure are in balance and there are no major disruptions; there was an increase in total funds. Trustees will meet to ratify the figures in the next couple of weeks and they will be available to view on the Charity Commission’s website and that of Companies House by the end of the year. Duncan thanked the finance and admin team of Oye Oke, Dorothy Woodward-Pynn and Judy McLellan.

Lee Slater, manager of Bethwin Road, was the keynote speaker, marking the 25th anniversary of Kairos’s residential rehab. How many people had come through the doors in that time? More than 1250 but even that isn’t close the final figure for lives changed because there is “a massive ripple effect: mums, dads, sons, daughters brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles… multiply it by more and more… it’s a pretty special place.”

Lee focused on what staff and volunteers provide at Bethwin and what they do. “I’ve learned over the years that the conditions a child needs to grow up are the same conditions an adult needs to thrive and have a successful life and a secure base. We provide the conditions.” These are, he said, firstly a place of physical safety. Then emotional security, boundaries, encouragement and support. “We treat people with respect. Structure, routine, healthy discipline… Time is what’s needed and care managers, Veterans Aid, and us – we give clients time, 12 weeks, sometimes longer.” For that period of time, clients’ needs are being met by staff and volunteers and when clients are ready to leave, it’s important for them to realise: now it’s over to you to meet your own needs – but don’t forget that NA and AA are there for you.

Looking back over the past year, Mossie Lyons summarised it in three words: together, adaptable, transformative. “Kairos has lost no aspect of its services over the pandemic; we’re all here. I want to thank you and all the teams for what you’ve done over 25 and 30 years.”

It may be impossible to calculate how many have come through the doors of Kairos but, said Mossie, “30 years of opening doors takes us back to the first door that was opened – that took inspiration, courage, and determination” as he welcomed Kairos founder Fr John Kitchen to great applause.

Among the highlights of his year as director was the completion of the redevelopment of 66 Nunhead Lane, which is now “a place of health and comfort and of comfort and home for six or seven residents and a place downstairs for our Garden Day Programme” and he thanked CRASH Charity for all their help with this and other projects.

Another highpoint was the placement of students, and welcomed back Connor Cook, the second Irish university student who’d spent their summer volunteering at Linden Grove, and who had flown from Dublin to be at the AGM. This will now become a regular summer opportunity for a student to gain an understanding of our work and recovery. He also commended Alex Ward, our first secondary school volunteer, who completed his work experience with Grace Madden our beekeeper.

Mossie paid tribute to and commemorated three late friends and their contributions to Kairos: John O’Sullivan, Paddy Ryan and John Glynn, “my best friend” and the founder of the Aisling Return to Ireland project. They were represented at the meeting by family members Mary O’Sullivan, Helen Ryan and Darren Glynn. Adrianna read Mossie’s choice of poem, The Bend in the Road by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, and Daren unveiled a painting by Antonia which now hangs in the dining room.

Thank you’s said to Vincent Mahe and the Linden Grove team and all who had helped, it was time for food and football. However, such was Sandra Ginnelly’s splendid buffet (complete with vegan option and a particularly glorious trifle) and the joy of seeing so many old friends that the World Cup was all but forgotten.