While life has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, the Irish community in New York has continued to do what it does best—lending a helping hand to support others' growth, even in times of strife. 

Over the past three months, I’ve been a member of the third group of women to take part in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs-supported Leadership and Executive Acceleration Program (LEAP).

Created by the Irish International Business Network, LEAP is a five-month program for ambitious professional Irish and Irish-American women living in the greater New York/tri-state area. 

As a leadership and professional development program, it is designed to advance participants' career goals and personal growth by providing access to expert speakers and coaches, skills training workshops, and ultimately, a strong network of peer mentors. 

Not only is the program designed to empower women to advance in the workplace but also to strengthen the roles women can play in each other’s success. 

Inspiring night with @Aedhmar and the new LEAP 2020 women for LEAP launch at @GrantThorntonUS . Thanks to the LEAP Women's Council for support. #womeninleadership pic.twitter.com/6MKxM7fjMP

— LEAP Program (@leap_now) February 13, 2020

I’d applied for LEAP knowing that there were things I needed to be better at in my professional life. Public speaking, certain types of leadership, and negotiating for myself do not come easily to me but I wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to improve. 

The chance to take part in LEAP also came as I was making a big transition, leaving my time with this publication IrishCentral after five years to move to another. 

I’d spent all but four months of my time so far in New York working with IrishCentral and within the Irish community, and while I’d looked to make this move, it remained daunting, even terrifying, to think I was leaving a site and audience I’d spent years trying to help grow and see if I was any good at doing that elsewhere. 

From the off, LEAP offered support as I made that scary transition, with a wealth of advice and knowledge from other members of the cohort and the speakers we met with to help me make the most of my new, next step and get my best foot forward as I started out in a new company.

LEAP 2020 workshops.

LEAP 2020 workshops.

Throughout the workshops, I learned more about my style of communication, which allowed me to think about my interactions with new co-workers. It encouraged me to think about how I can make them more meaningful and adapt them to improve.

And I’ve had the chance to meet with many wonderful and passionate women, there to offer a helping hand not just to each other but who have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into our community projects. 

New York has given me opportunities I never could have imagined. It has placed me in rooms with former presidents, Hollywood stars, and given the chance to meet with a host of diverse and caring people doing their part for the world. 

Yet it’s a city that is not kind to everyone and with ever-rising rent prices and a high cost of living, those who find themselves homeless in New York have a difficult time establishing themselves again in a safe and secure home. 

Founded in 1977, The Dwelling Place is a transitional shelter for women that offers a safe space for up to 14 women at a time. The women are offered long-term housing for up to a year and sometimes longer as they work toward finding their own homes. 

A privately-funded residence located in Midtown Manhattan, the safe, healing, and structured environment gives women the space and time to develop a sustainable plan for building a healthy, independent lifestyle.

As part of the LEAP program, myself and six other women have been assigned to The Dwelling Place, to establish a way we can use our skills to support them and use our own networks and experiences to look at ways that the shelter can grow and develop in the future.

Working with the shelter has felt incredibly rewarding, especially in the past few weeks, when the coronavirus crisis has hit many of us with a feeling of hopelessness and concern about what we can do to help. 

As with all best-laid plans, we’ve had to adapt to the changing times as New York City became the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak and we, and the shelter, were forced to think about what fundraising will look like in the new normal when events they may have once held could look very different. 

While LEAP participant Nora Beirne was able to gather and deliver donations to the shelter, the Dwelling Place had already launched its 2020 campaign just before the worst hit and we’ll continue to work the best we can on new fundraising suggestions for a socially distanced city. 

And we’re only halfway through.

LEAP participent Nora Beirne delivers donations to The Dwelling Place of New York during the coronavirus pandemic. Image credit: Nora Beirne.

LEAP participent Nora Beirne delivers donations to The Dwelling Place of New York during the coronavirus pandemic. Image credit: Nora Beirne.

There still remains a series of workshops, more networking opportunities and more work to do on our community projects before we finish off the program in June. 

Between now and then, I’m looking forward to taking on a more hands-on role on the community project, taking on one of the project lead roles to ensure we're staying on track and doing the best for the Dwelling Place that we can. 

The LEAP program was established by the Irish International Business Network and is supported by the Irish Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs. You can find more information here. 

You can donate to The Dwelling Place here

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This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here.