IN these times of financial hardship and austerity it’s not often you get something for free. Everyone’s out for themselves, hard-nosed, tight-fisted, looking after number one.
So when someone bucks the trend, goes out of their way to help another, and for little personal reward, it’s all the more striking.
Eoghan Ahern is a care assistant at the Brothers of Charity Services in Bawnmore. He works with severely disabled people on a daily basis, patients with damaging behaviors, patients who self-harm. It’s a draining job, one where emotional involvement is a necessity rather than an option.
Eoghan is close to his patients, very much emotionally involved. So when one such patient, a gentleman in his thirties, expressed an interest in all things motor-related, Eoghan decided to take action.
“Over a length of time it was observed that this gentleman would delight on entering unlocked cars belonging to staff members,” explains Eoghan. However he wasn’t interested in stealing the cars, Bawnmore didn’t have a potential grand theft auto fiend on its hands.
“He didn’t want to drive them, but just to sit in, relax and maybe ponder possible journeys.”
Being inside a car instantly calmed the patient, made him happy, at ease.
But although he had no intention of starting the engine and riding off into the sunset, there were certain safety issues to consider; allowing someone with intellectual disabilities to access various automobiles at his leisure was not only ethically wrong, it also had legal implications.
A solution was required.
“It was proposed that this individual may like a car of his own, maybe his life would be enhanced by having his own personal vehicle,” says Eoghan.
A request for a disused car was sent to Bawnmore’s transport manager, and a couple of days later, the car was delivered to the man’s home.
“Needless to say, a very keen interest was taken on its arrival,” Eoghan recalls. “Doors, windows, mirrors were inspected.”
Quickly becoming accustomed to his new vehicle, the client spent days walking around it, admiring it, sometimes even sitting in the back seat for a nap. Staff members noticed a marked improvement in his behaviour, and all because of the car.
However the story doesn’t end there.
“It was suggested that because the individual had a vision impairment that maybe it would be a good idea to paint the car,” says Eoghan.
Charged with the task of finding someone to pimp the ride, but with a limited budget, Eoghan put out some feelers. The response was less than overwhelming.
“We asked a lot of people if there was any chance they could do it for charity, and a lot of people turned their nose up at it.”
In a last act of desperation, Eoghan contacted a friend who attends an art college, asking if she knew anyone who might be willing to do the job for free. “I told her ‘we’ll pay for the paint, or we can feed them, give them as much tea and coffee as they want’.”
Enter Adam Illes, a spray painter who is originally from Hungary but has lived in Limerick for the past nine years. As soon as he heard about the job, he was only too keen to help.
“It’s always a good feeling to help someone. I like to see these people smile. You know, it makes me happy if I can see them smile.”
So on a rainy, chilly Sunday in November, Adam arrived at the client’s house and set to work on the car. With a mandate consisting only of “something colourful”, Adam allowed his creative side to take over, and some six hours later, the masterpiece was complete and ready to be unveiled.
“The guy was jumping around, and he was smiling. I didn’t think he was going to give me this reaction. And everybody who works for the charity, they were all amazed,” says Adam.
Even more amazing was that Adam asked for nothing in return, simply happy to have been given the opportunity to work on a car for the first time. Like most artists, the reward for Adam comes from the work itself.
“I can listen to other people and make their dreams come true through their visions. When I’m working, I get lost in the piece and enjoy my time with it, taking my time and doing the details properly.”
Adam hopes that jobs like this will change the public perception of spray painting, make them realise that it’s not graffiti or vandalism, that it is as artistic and as worthy as a painting in a gallery.
Doing that may take some time, but in the short-term he has at the very least gained a fan for life.
View more of Adam’s work at https://www.facebook.com/onikdecor/?fref=ts