Compassionate Women Group Course

Network Compassionate Women

“Women, tend to spend a lot of time caring for others and often forget to extend that same care and love to themselves. Self-compassion is giving ourselves the same kindness, care, and understanding that we offer to others. Developing self-compassion can give us an emotional resilience that leaves us better able to deal with life’s challenges.”

Sara Anderson

NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network are pleased to be taking bookings for the New Compassionate Women course by Life Coach Sara Anderson. This is a FREE 4-week online group course which is being offered on a voluntary basic by Sara and will start on Wednesday 3rd June 11am-12.30pm. The aim of this course is to support women in their health and wellness, promoting personal development, well-being and positive mental health. Over the four weeks’ participants will be introduced to and learn about self-compassion, its importance for wellness and how you can develop it.


Through guided practice participants will learn mindfulness, empathy, and gratitude techniques allowing you to develop the tools and methods that will leave you feeling better about yourself and the world around you.


Venue: Online via Zoom

Dates: Wednesday 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th June

Time: 11.00am-12.30pm


If you are interested in participating in this programme please fill in our online form here and someone will be in contact with you. For further information please contact NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network by email on Booking is essential, book early to avoid disappointment.


The Compassionate Women group course is designed and facilitated by Sara Anderson, who has a working history and experience of working with groups and vast training experience in life coaching, drama therapy, mediation, mindfulness and many other modalities. She can be found on facebook @saratappingcoach or by mobile on 087 7189 620

You Define Yourself

Khaki Old Couple Illustration Valentine's Day Card (1)

On Sunday 26th April 2020, Ireland joined others around the world to celebrate the 11th Lesbian Visibility Day, a day to celebrate, recognise, and bring visibility to lesbians. To honour this day local community group Donegal LGBTQ+ shared the story of Ann Marie which outlined the struggle of accepting one’s own sexual identity. In this Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ feature with the permission of Ann Marie we share her journey of loss, of love and the battle to belong.


Hi all, my name is Ann Marie or aka Annie. This is the normal way I introduce myself because that is who I am. When people ask me what I do, I say I work as an accounts administrator and I coach football and camogie and tutor part time.


Again, this is what I do but that’s not all is it? It’s that nagging voice in your head telling you to blurt out that you’re a lesbian shout it out get it out there but I don’t and not because I am ashamed but because it shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t define my decisions in life it doesn’t make me a better or worse person. If I make a big deal of been a lesbian then its making it out to be a big deal and it’s not. I am who I am and the ups and downs of life make me who I am not who I love.


When I was in my teens I always felt a little different to other girls my age. Boys weren’t the big concern in my life. One of my best friend set me up with her neighbour. We went out for a bit but lasted a month or so. I had to pretend to be upset that we broke up but I wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel upset though he was a nice guy, cute and treated me well. Then one day everything changed not because I dramatically fell in love with a girl but because of a TV show called Playing the Field. I was extremely sporty playing camogie, soccer and basketball (I started playing Gaelic football late in life).

This show was about women playing soccer and the drama that goes with it. I loved it and there was two characters who started getting close to each other and they happened to be two women. I became obsessed with them but in my head, it was just because they played soccer. Reflecting back these characters opened up my eyes. It was late 90s and I had never seen two women together before. I would safely say I was very naive. So, I starting looking for shows that would have lesbian content, fortunately for me it was a time of change in the world and TV shows were starting to introduce gay characters for me Bad Girls and Buffy became my new favourite shows. The only problem was I was in a relationship with a guy.


Expectation is hard to deal with but when the expectation is coming from yourself it’s a whole lot worse. I always wanted to be the best and I took negativity and criticism really bad. I wanted to be the best daughter, best granddaughter I wanted to be someone that my parents would be proud to introduce to friends. I wanted mam to be able to show off her daughter and show how well she brought me up and for me this was the hardest part of been gay. I didn’t want mam to have to introduce her gay daughter to anyone. So, I kept it a secret I became an actor in my own right, said the right things at the right time did the right things and even talked about marriage. Then one day I met someone that would change my life for ever in good ways and bad. I fell in love but I was still in a relationship with a man. I would talk for hours with her about my feelings, about my fears and about my lies that I had to tell. She was amazing she listened she gave me advice and we fell in love. The thing was, as we look back on it, how we fell in love more or less instantly. So, after my grandfather died I made a promise that I would do the right thing. I would finish my relationship and start preparing myself to talk to my parents.


What I haven’t mentioned yet is that the woman I fell in love with lived a in a different country thousand miles away. She travelled over to meet with me for the first time and it was amazing. Everything felt right. Holding her hand, looking into her eyes everything just felt the way you read in books but that nagging voice in the back of my head was telling me to run. Anxiety hit, fear of telling my mam and dad doubled this shit was real now. Before I could pretend it didn’t exist but now I couldn’t. I would stay up long into the night going over how I would tell them. Every time I would build up the courage something stopped me from doing it. I hated myself, I hated looking in the mirror I couldn’t look at myself in the eye. I starting retreating into my room secretly drinking to help me sleep. I was 26. I spent nearly 10 years with a secret that was slowly killing me inside. So, what happened next well my biggest regret happened next I was so consumed with how I was feeling that my relationship with the woman I loved got destroyed. Not going into the details as that is another story to be told.


My mum was having a birthday the big 50 and I managed to ruin it by coming out as I was not able to hold it in any longer. It just came rushing out the week before her surprise birthday party and I gave the poor woman no chance to deal with it. I didn’t tell her in a controlled way I was totally uncontrollable at that point. She didn’t take it well but not for been gay I don’t think but probably more about the way I done it. My mum and dad are amazing people. It took them time to deal with it but who am I to judge it took me 10 years. They are my biggest allies and voted yes in the referendum and are proud to introduce me. Mam says “how could I not be proud of you look at you, look at who you have become”


So where am I now, I now live in Donegal (from Kilkenny) and I am back with my first love and smashing the long-distance thing. Advice for those coming out be relaxed be calm be proud of who you are, been part of the LGBTQ+ community is just something your part of it doesn’t define you. You define yourself.


I am Ann Marie. The person I was meant to be and the person I will be in the future.



NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network would like to thank Donegal LGBTQ+ and Ann Marie for sharing with us an insightful lived experience.

Donegal LGBTQ+ aims to promote the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people and increase the social connectiveness across the county by providing information and supports as well as offering events with local partnerships. They are a non-profit community and you can find them on facebook here by email at or phone number 086 088 7738.

donegal lqbt logo


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices

Express Yourself


NCCWN-Donegal Women’s Network are looking for women to share stories and write about topics of their interest to feature in our ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.


The Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices series has been running for over 17 years through the Donegal Women’s Network with hundreds of features being printed in the Donegal Democrat. Over the last few years we moved these features to an online platform on our website.


You can check out a number of the features written by women in Donegal which we’ve published by visiting


If you would be interested in being part of this series please drop us a message we’d love to talk with you. Or if you know of any women who may like to develop or put their writing skills into practice why not share with them too! 


Please email us on if you’re interested in writing a feature for this women’s series. 

Pen 2 Paper

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In this Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Dixi Patterson from the Pen2Paper writers group reflects on the groups development, its accomplishments over the past ten years in Donegal and the power of the written word.



In 2010, a writers’ group was established by Karin White with funding from the Peace III programme.  For the first year, journalist Julie Costello was the group’s inspiring facilitator; then, because we had shared so many memories, both happy and sad, and formed lasting friendships through sharing our written pieces – prose, poetry, free verse and song – a core group decided to stay together for regular meetings, and so Pen2Paper – P2P – was born.


Writing, by its very nature, can be a lonely experience, and the aim of P2P is to provide an environment which encourages all its members to develop writing skills and confidence and to share their work in a supportive atmosphere, with positive feedback.


White Simple Bordered For Men Quotes Instagram Post


P2P projects have included readings from – and singing the lyrics of – our work at North West Words public events in Letterkenny.  A major project was a cross-border venture involving residential weekends and workshops in Derry and Letterkenny with ‘Here We Go!’ Theatre Company.


Since we were free to design our own joint project, we took into account the prevailing resurgence of interest in real-life stories of people – not of celebrities or fashion icons, but of ‘ordinary’ folk like ourselves.  This was accompanied by a universal lament that we have not been more careful in recording for posterity the fascinating stories of those who went before us. So, we decided to write & record on DVD stories of each of our childhoods, as we grew up in different parts of Ireland, north and south, rural and urban.  The result was ‘Stories of Yesteryear’, a fascinating social history of part of the 20th century in Ireland.


As a group, we try to use our talents not only to benefit each other, but also the wider community. Over the years, we have contributed to many charities, including the Simon Community, Donegal Town Solas and Cancer Bus, St. Thomas Special Needs Fund, Ride for Change, Brainwave, Hand on Heart, Sassy, the Warrington Youth Club, Vincent de Paul Society, the Chernobyl Appeal and the Donegal Railway Project.


A New Day DawnThen, in the summer of 2018, after months of hard work and selection, P2P launched our first anthology ‘A New Day Dawns’, named after the title of a poem by one of our founder members, Cathy Anderson.  This was a compilation of members’ prose, poetry, free verse, song lyrics and art work, and was dedicated to two of our much-loved members, former postmistress Peggy Hegarty of Donegal Town and film-maker Susan Underwood of Inver, who both sadly passed away before publication.


Julie Costello returned to be the editor of what was envisaged as a local community magazine and we originally pledged to give any small profit to our three chosen charities: the Donegal branches of RNLI, the Alzheimer’s Society, and Irish Guide Dogs for the blind and Assistance Dogs for children with autism.

In the event, we found overwhelming support from the public, shops, hotels and businesses, local councillors and our own families! On the opening day of the 2018 Patrick McGill Summer School in the Highlands Hotel in Glenties, the book was launched before a packed audience by Lochlann McGill, historian, author and past President of the Donegal Historical Society.

Further launches, all supported by generous raffle donations, were held on the Donegal Water Bus and in the Dawros Bay Hotel, Rosbeg.  Individuals, shops, cafés and Glenties Library took books to sell for us, and by November our profits had reached an amazing €8,400, which we were able to divide equally and present to our three local charities.

pen to paper cheque

Presentation of €2500 to Jennifer for Guide Dogs for the Blind and €2500 to Donegal Alzheimers Association

In the Irish Times on the day after the first launch, Anne Hailes devoted her column to the “eclectic debut” of P2P, describing ‘A New Day Dawns’ as “…an intriguing and varied anthology illustrating how writing groups can reveal hidden talents.”


P2P meets fortnightly in the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the Donegal Railway Centre, where evenings include writing on a given prompt or image, sharing our writing (not compulsory!) with the group, feedback, a cup of tea or coffee and, inevitably, a lot of laughter!

Three of the founders of P2P still attend regularly and members come from far and wide: Donegal Town, Clar, Stranorlar, Convoy, Drumkeen, Rossnowlagh, Drumduff, Inver, Portnoo and Rosbeg.  From time to time, aided by ETB grants, we invite professional writers to lead and inspire the group.

pen to paper meetings


We each bring a couple of euros to cover rent and add to our ‘kitty’, which is then spent on outings or party evenings. Last year, these comprised a trip to Glencolmcille for a stage production of John B. Keane’s ‘The Field’ and a day’s outing to the exhibition at Seamus Heaney’s Homeplace in Bellaghy, Co. Derry, which included poetry readings by poets Noel Connor and Gerald Dawe and a special screening of Noel’s film ‘The Bovedy Illuminations’, and we ended the year with a Christmas party in the Manhatten Restaurant, Donegal Town.

Some copies of ‘A New Day Dawns’ are still available and will be in local outlets next month.


Further information may be found on our Facebook page:

Pen2PaperWriters’ Group



NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.