Ahead of speaking at the Aisling Centre’s Hope, Health and Growth event, which is taking place at the South West College Skills Centre this Saturday (January 4), Agnes Lunny, Chief Executive of all-Ireland charity Positive Futures told The Impartial Reporter how she believes that a positive attitude can give positive results.

“I’m absolutely convinced, and my life has shown it, that if we think positively we have a much better chance of having a positive outcome,” commented Agnes, a Fermanagh native who hasn’t let her personal experiences of tragedy and disability hold her back in life.

“I do come from a very difficult past that I lost my mum, my dad and my brother in a fire when I was 16, I was also registered blind, I started losing my eye-sight when I was eight, I suppose it’s fairly well known that I had a few knocks along the way and I’m not afraid to talk about that,” said Agnes, noting that the pain is as raw today as the day she lost her family.

“Life throws up a lot of challenges but we need and we must put those in a context which is about getting on with life.”

“My absolute firm belief is that it’s not life events in themselves that shape how we live our lives, or shape what our lives look like, but it’s rather our attitude to our life events that shape our life,” she shared, adding: “Every morning I get up and I say, ‘you know today, today is going to be the best day of my life so far’ and fundamentally all I want out of life is that I am a better person today than I was yesterday, but also that what I do to make other people’s lives better, that I’m better at it today than I was yesterday.”

In 1995, Agnes established Positive Futures, a charity which offers support to children and adults who have a learning disability, autistic spectrum condition or acquired brain injury. Since starting the charity, she has been effectively running it with a team which includes her husband Paul Roberts.

“Paul has been sort of my deputy since the early days. I’ve been the chief executive and he’s been the managing director since the very beginning of the charity. I dream up the ideas and he makes them happen, it’s a good partnership,” explained Agnes.

Originally from the Garvary area of Belleek, Agnes currently lives in Bangor but even though she has been living away for over 30 years, she still considers Fermanagh her home.

“A lovely thing is that we provide the whole range of our Positive Futures services in Fermanagh. In fact Fermanagh has been the area that we have piloted a lot of new initiatives which is no surprise for I am a very proud Fermanagh woman, I want Fermanagh to be the very best it can be for everybody.”

Talking about her working background and the inspiration behind Positive Futures, Agnes said: “I’ve always had a huge sense of social justice and doing right by and for people so I’m guessing that’s why I went into social work.

“I started off my career in juvenile justice and it was very clear there to see huge injustices experienced by youngsters, many of whom were victims themselves and many of whom had a learning disability which I guess sparked my interest in learning disabilities.”

She continued: “I then moved into learning disability only to discover that life, choice, options and opportunities for people with learning difficulties were grim. Children were living in nursing homes and residential homes, huge numbers of people were living in institutions and hospitals.

“They weren’t sick, they were different but they weren’t sick. They were hidden away from society and my view of that is that it’s wrong, it’s fundamentally wrong.”

“People have a right to a life. They have a right to the same life as you and me. So that was my mission and it remains my mission, people should be given support, I need support, I don’t see, so I need support, if I didn’t have support I couldn’t do what I do,” added Agnes.

Stating that “none of us are an island” and “we all need support”, Agnes continued: “People with a learning disability, with autism, with an acquired brain injury, they also don’t have a voice. I want to live in a society where everyone is equal, where people are welcomed, people who are different are welcomed, they are seen for what they bring, what they contribute, not for the burden they are in society.”

Noting that she is “really looking forward” to the Hope, Health and Growth event on January 4, Agnes said: “I’m really looking forward to it, not in terms of what I can contribute but also what I can get from listening to other people, it seems to be a fantastic line up of speakers and I’m really excited about it.”

“I want to give back to Fermanagh, Fermanagh has been good to me,” Agnes told The Impartial Reporter.