Northern Ireland Board of Directors and Staff

Grainne Ashe
Founder and Director of Programmes

Adam's Camp Northern Ireland Board Grainne AsheGrainne lives in Belfast with her husband Anthony and is the proud Mum of three beautiful children Grace, Rose and Rowan.

Before Grainne had her children she worked for Belfast health and social services board. For 18 years, she was employed in many roles including Residential worker, Outreach worker and Day Care worker. Grainne worked mainly with adults and young people with physical disabilities, developmental delays and mental health problems. Her principle role was to provide interesting and stimulating activities/therapies for the services users, while working closely alongside the therapists, social workers and family.

Grainne is excited and thrilled to take on this new and challenging role as Director of programmes. She has always strongly believed that no matter what a person’s disability, given the right support, encouragement and belief they can reach their full potential.

Grainne is also the Founder of our Northern Ireland Adam’s Camp. In July of 2015 she took her family to Nantucket, New England, U.S. and had a life changing experience. She then felt compelled to share this therapy model with the Autism community back home, for families in the U.K., Ireland and indeed Europe. Adam’s Camp’s unique intensive, multidisciplinary programme didn’t exist outside of the States, until now. Grainne has the full support and encouragement of the U.S. Adam’s Camp team.

“We went to Adam’s Camp in the States not really knowing what to expect, but wanted to try something different for our 6 year old daughter Rose who has autism. I loved the model from the beginning as Adam’s Camp believes if you have a child with special needs it affects the entire family. So they provided therapy, activities and respite for every member of the family. We all changed during that incredible week at Adam’s Camp. Rose is so much more mature and able to cope better with life, and overall just a happier child. She really did blossom in the ray of sunshine that is Adam’s camp.”

Gerry McKenna

I took up the role of Chairman of the Adam’s Camp NI board in October 2016, having seen how successful the first year’s camp had been. My son volunteered at the camp and had an incredible experience, and I witnessed the arrival of the families and campers on the first day, and saw at first hand their excitement and optimism. I was involved in fundraising efforts in 2016, in particular, taking part in the Belfast Marathon, and packing bags at supermarkets.

I am now retired, and am keen to use my time and experience to contribute positively to the future of this great charity, and to see it flourish in Northern Ireland. I spend my leisure time running, skiing, training my dogs, and I also volunteer with Special Olympics Ireland.

Brian McLoughlin

brian-mcloughlinBrian, who is married with three grown children, first got to know Adam’s Camp NI when he was volunteer duty manager at Corrymeela for the first ever Adam’s Camp in Northern Ireland in July 2016. Impressed by Adam’s Camp’s transformative effect on the lives of children and families, and by the dedication and commitment of its therapists and volunteers, he subsequently joined the Board. A solicitor by profession, Brian worked first as a litigator, and later as a government legal adviser, until his retirement in 2013 and has now gone back to university to study history. In addition to his involvement in the Corrymeela Community he is an active member of St Vincent de Paul in East Belfast, and a volunteer befriender with the Alzheimer’s Society. When not studying he can be found walking the hills of County Antrim.

Louisa McKenna
Treasurer of the Board

Adam's Camp Northern Ireland Board Louisa McKennaIt is an honour and a pleasure to be the Treasurer of Adam’s Camp NI. I have been a Chartered Accountant for 25 years, qualifying with PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1991 and subsequently working both in Industry and the Public sector. Throughout this time I have maintained a constant approach to my professional work; to simplify financial issues and to present them to my non-financial colleagues in layman’s terms, jargon busting whilst keeping the figures right. I have always delivered complete, timely and accurate information, however big or small the enterprise might be. I have only lived in Northern Ireland for 9 years, previously living in both England and Wales. So what do I bring to the Board of Adam’s Camp NI, apart from passion, energy and an obsession with organised filing and detailed records!? I bring integrity, professional experience, a sense of humour, lots of pink stationery and, of course, my BBC English accent!

Outside of this role I have a husband, two sons aged 20 and 17, three dogs and no immediate family connection to anyone living with ASD. My best friend teaches many children with ASD, and I have learned over the years that they all have such potential and such different issues. I have taken the role as Treasurer because I feel very strongly that this new charity has the potential to genuinely, and actively, change lives.

David “Ellis” Barnsley

ellis-barnsley-photoDavid “Ellis” Barnsley grew up in Wales, before working in Wolverhampton and then moving to Northern Ireland in 2012. His first taste of Adam’s Camp came through the inaugural 2016 programme at Corrymeela.

Ellis has worked as a musician, pastor and university chaplain.  Married to a Texan, and with two sons he spends most of his time wearing many hats with the Corrymeela Community or delving into his passion of specialty coffee.

Although very modest, Ellis is also learning to enjoy writing about himself in the third person.

Adam’s Camp has a proven record of transforming family lives, and he hopes to be a part of that continuing tradition through Adam’s Camp NI. 

Julie Smylie

Adam's Camp Northern Ireland Board Julie SmylieJulie is mum to Luke (12) and Megan (8) as well as working full time as a senior social worker in the northern trust. She currently works with young people aged 16-24 who have experience of the care system and has previously worked in child protection and residential care.

Throughout her time in social care, Julie has experienced the frustrations that many parents of children with autism, disabity and special needs encounter particularly with regard to assessments, services and timescales. It was listening to Grainne’s passionate recount of how Adam’s Camp impacted so positively on her daughter and family as a whole that led to the interest in becoming involved in her vision for a camp in Northern Ireland.

Any free time Julie has she enjoys travelling, eating out and shopping, especially for shoes!

Martin Lynch
Patron of Adams Camp NI

Adam's Camp Northern Ireland Patron Martin LynchBorn and brought up in the docks area of Belfast, Martin is one of Northern Ireland’s leading playwrights. His plays include: The History Of The Troubles (accordin’ to my Da), Chronicles Of Long Kesh and Dancing Shoes:The George Best Musical. He founded the not-for-profit Green Shoot Productions theatre company and is the founding visionary of Cathedral Quarter. He played a leading role in establishing the Community Arts sector and has long been a champion of access to the arts for everyone. Martin is a very enthusiastic supporter of Adam’s Camp NI and lauds its inauguration in Northern Ireland as much needed and timely. He intends to promote the great work of the charity at every opportunity.

Ruadhrai O’Kane

ruadhrai-okanes-photoI originally come from just outside Dungiven and have lived in Belfast since starting University in 1995 completing a
degree in Quantity Surveying in 1999. I have worked for NIE Networks since 2001 in various roles and currently work as Contracts Manager.

I have played traditional music from an early age predominantly on the fiddle. I enjoy informal music sessions and have been involved in several bands over the years recording several albums. I also enjoy teaching music and have given workshops and performed at various festivals throughout Ireland, UK and Europe.

I have been married to Michelle for over 10 years and together we have 3 children Aibhne (5), Eaclain (4) and Fóla (2) with another baby due in January 2017. Our eldest son, Aibhne, was diagnosed with autism aged 4.

While seeking autism-related information we came across Adam’s Camp NI and applied for Aibhne to attend the inaugural camp as a Pathfinder. We didn’t know what to expect but are so glad that we did participate and we have watched Aibhne develop immensely since camp in July 2016 and we are looking forward to next year. Adam’s Camp provided a holistic therapy experience for our son and the therapists worked tirelessly with all the children to ensure that therapy was tailored to suit the needs of the individual child and worked to achieve predetermined outcomes agreed with parents at the start of the week. The wonderful Corrymeela team ensured that siblings were well catered for. This therapy model simply is not available anywhere else within the UK or Ireland.

I was moved to get involved with Adam’s Camp NI to make a difference for children with autism as we experienced how being at camp made a difference to our family. We cannot wait to return to Ballycastle and the environs of Corrymeela next year!

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