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Play, hint of Irish is topic for CREATE

Carol Ludwig and Jim O’Rourke will be presenting this week.

Special to the OBSERVER

“My grandparents met on the boat.”

With this compelling detail, local Irish-American tradition-bearer Jim O’Rourke plans to share his journey to discover and understand his Irish roots. “Irish Traditions” will be presented by O’Rourke at the Dunkirk Public Library, 536 Central Ave., Dunkirk on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. A talk on “Play and Play Disruption” by Carol Ludwig will follow. The celebration will include a lively performance of Irish fiddle tunes by regionally acclaimed fiddler Dick Gilman and samplings of traditional Irish foods. All are welcome!

A transplant from Long Island, O’Rourke will speak about Irish music, customs, and festivals. Having studied at SUNY Fredonia in sociology and political science, O’Rourke talks about how his life has been enriched and given meaning by his investigation of his Irish culture and heritage.

“I’m a third-generation Irish American. I was talking to my father (about our heritage) and asked him what he knew and he said ‘nothing.’ I asked other people in the family and they knew nothing. . . The journey to find out who you are is important . . . The first reason I had to look into my cultural heritage was to understand where I came from. Not knowing is like living a life with no boundaries,” O’Rourke said. “You have to decide how you’re going to be. To get the full value of your life . . . you need to know ‘Does anything really matter?”

For O’Rourke, the odyssey to discover and understand his heritage is an ongoing process. “The more I learn about my past, the sharper focus I have. I learned that I have real values. The Irish – (historically) have had a life of torment. They lived through different challenges – but they persevered. They have a quiet perseverance.”

He hopes to pass on his stories so future generations will seek out their heritage and make sense of their own lives.

It is common for many Americans not to have their histories handed down, but O’Rourke was inspired enough by the few details he had, to return to his homeland three times.

It is important not only for patriarchs and matriarchs to pass down their history but also for their children to seek it out as well, as O’Rourke has done.

“My grandfather, Sylvester Sherry, met my grandmother, Mary Foley, a Scotts-Irish from Shannon, Ireland. They met ‘on the boat’ coming from Liverpool to America in 1918. When you go back to check it, you realize that you lose parts of your culture (through migrations and changes in life).” When O’Rourke and his wife Carol (Ludwig) traveled to Ireland for the first time in 2003 the words, “I’m home” arose in his mind as their plane touched down at the Shannon airport.

O’Rourke’s quest for personal meaning is well complemented by his wife of 43 years. Carol Ludwig, the evening’s second presenter, traveled with Jim on his first two trips to Ireland, and kindly made the arrangements for his third trip there, when he met their son who was stationed in Great Britain.

Ludwig, a retired social worker, graduated in 1976 from SUNY Fredonia with a Bachelors Degree in sociology and psychology and in 2002 completed a Masters Degree in Social Work at the University of Buffalo. She began her career as a Volunteer In Service To America during which time she developed a children’s program for the Hotline for Rape and Battering. She went on to work for Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc., for 16 years and ended her tenure there as the Deputy Director of Family and Community Services. Upon completing her Masters Degree, she spent the next 15 years working as a psychiatric social worker for the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene and retired in July 2018. Ludwig recently returned from a humanitarian trip to Uganda to teach residents of a village to use a water filtration system.

Ludwig’s fun and informative presentation will explore the universal practice of playing, and its profound necessity for mental, physical, and emotional health for children and adults. Using her extensive background in psychiatric social work, Ludwig will explain how the brains of children and their adult caretakers change and grow. Playing can help children regulate their emotions, so they can cope better with the challenges and frustrations of everyday life and traumas they may endure. Ludwig explains, “Play is children’s ‘work.'” Citing such theoreticians as Brian Sutton-Smith, Erik Erikson and pediatric psychiatrist W.D. Winnicott, Ludwig will reveal in words and activities, just how powerful a role “playing” can be in all of our lives.

Throughout 2020, the CREATE Project Library Room will feature special presentations, demonstrations, and performances. Jason Hammond, the Library Director, invites all to this innovative enterprise. Each third Thursday of the month from 5:30 to 7 p.m., the CREATE Project programs will include activities and discussions led by a representative of a different highlighted culture.

The program will bring cross-cultural understanding through local tradition-bearers as they share their culture and traditions. Related topics such as personal development, family relationships, community building, and child-rearing best practices are also explored in each session.

Refreshments popular in the culture of the evening will give participants a flavor of the country.

Next month, Far East traditions — China, Vietnam, Japan, Burma, etc.; with family and group dynamics to be featured.

The Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation is the CREATE Project’s fiscal sponsor, and the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Chautauqua County is the lead community partner. Though working cooperatively together, the CREATE Project is a separate entity and operates as such. For more information call 680-0266.

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