John Lonergan is a mentor in new series of The Family Project on RTÉ ONE

May 23, 2014

“Every single human being has potential.”

John Lonergan, author and former Mountjoy governor is a mentor on The Family Project.


The Family Project is a six-part series that follows families from around Ireland working together on a project to help with learning and educational needs. Each week, a different family together with their mentor will devise a project that will be tailor made to address the family’s needs. Educational tutors are also on hand to provide assistance. They work together as a team on a project, bringing them closer as a family and improving their lives.

In the first episode, (next Monday at 8 pm on RTÉ ONE), John Lonergan works with the Menton family in Inchicore to find a project for 15-year Aaron which will help address issues he has around self-confidence and social interaction as a result of his Asperger Syndrome.

Aaron is aware of the challenges he faces with Asperger Syndrome: “I get angry real easy, my organisational skills aren’t really that good as well and my handwriting.” Aaron is doing well through mainstream education and has a particular interest in history. He uses assistive technology which helps him greatly in his schoolwork.

In the programme Aaron’s family project is to give a historical talk to help him with his self-confidence and interaction issues. Aaron goes on a tour guide training course with Glasnevin Cemetery to learn these skills.

“I believe everybody is good at something, their one particular thing,” says John Lonergan. “Once you feel achievement and once you experience achievement, that will inspire you to other things because we inhibit ourselves mostly by saying I can’t.”

Aaron chooses to do his historical talk on Eamon de Valera and delivers it in front of an audience in Glasnevin Cemetery. “I really enjoyed it. I felt a bit nervous at the start because I was only getting up but I felt once I started doing it, I was alright, I wasn’t that nervous,” says Aaron.

“The greatest gift any teacher can pass on to a child or a student is self-confidence, once you have self-confidence well then the world is at your feet. That is the greatest achievement for Aaron is that it has given him tremendous confidence to stand in front of an audience and deliver,” says John Lonergan.


The Family Project

A new, second series of The Family Project starts on RTÉ One on Monday 26 May. It was a big success last year, and this year John Lonergan, Alice Taylor, Davy Fitzgerald, John Spillane, Yvonne Keating and Brendan Courtney are all taking part.

With children only spending about 15% of their time in school, the series aims to show parents how to do more in the home to help their kids learn in fun and engaging ways.

With a host of very different challenges this year’s series should be good fun and again show families how making small changes or pushing themselves to try new things can change their lives.

Each family is guided by the input and teaching of Ireland’s best education experts. These experts devise a learning activity and give the families the techniques and tools to achieve this. They show ways that they can all work together, and will set a target or goal that the family can realistically achieve. The experts are from the same area as the family, to show that local resources are available to everyone in Ireland.

With the passion and involvement of some of Ireland’s most respected personalities, the series will both inspire and inform families on how easy it is to enrich their lives by learning together.

Each episode will focus on one family’s story and the challenges they face as they work with their mentor on an inspiring project that will motivate them to make changes for the better.


Since 2000, the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) has been using the mass medium of television to highlight literacy issues, outline supports that are available, motivate people to return to education and provide opportunities for learning in the privacy of their own home.

NALA know that parents are the first and foremost educators of their children. Learning doesn’t just happen in school. Children learn everyday – from the moment they are born they start to soak up things like a sponge – at home, out and about, even at bedtime.

While all our research shows that parents know how important their role is in helping their children learn, very often they are stuck for time or easy access to resources.

NALA has developed a website to help parents support their children’s education called It includes general information, fun activities and useful tips. Help My Kid Learn is a website where people can see that supporting a child’s literacy and numeracy development is a natural, easy and fun activity that can be integrated into any part of their day.

NALA also operate aFreephone support line 1800 20 20 65 that is staffed by experienced operators who can support people return to education in their local Education and Training Board (ETB) (former VEC) or match them with a distance education tutor.


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