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A crafty solution to social isolation

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Friends tutors Orlaith Simons, Javier Bonillo and Leah Brew, and students Christine Flaherty and Tracey Turner, at Ballybane Library. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets Norah Mahony, founder of a new group aiming to tackle loneliness

Human beings have never been as well connected as in our technology-led world. That’s the theory, at least. But despite online connectivity many people have never felt more isolated, and loneliness is not just a problem for older, rural residents, according to Norah Mahony.

Norah, a mature student in Community Development at NUIG, feels so strongly about this that she has set up a voluntary organisation to bring people together.

The charity, Friends Ireland, aims to tackle social isolation by organising events in community locations, where people can come together to share hobbies and their interests. It does this via classes, courses, and crafts, all organised by volunteers, with tutors involved giving their time for free.

Norah, who lives between Ardrahan and Craughwell, is from Loughrea originally. She and her siblings moved to England when she was four when her parents separated. They moved back to Ireland 10 years later, settling in a rural area outside Loughrea. For a teenager who had been reared in an urban UK environment, the move was not easy.

“I love Ireland now and it’s home now, but at the time it was difficult,” Norah says.

In England she had attended a huge secondary school with over 4,000 students and she found the transition to a smaller Irish school difficult.

As one of seven children Norah was never lonely, and she did make friends at school. But because she had missed out on learning Irish dancing, music and sports from childhood – and all of these were popular locally – she struggled to find her niche initially.

However, even then she was interested in working in the community and had a reputation in her own family as the one who would always bring home strays and try to fix things for people.

“The rest of them would be laughing at me,” she recalls, wryly.

But that community interest opened up new horizons for her.

“I did a lot of volunteer work after school, with groups like the Samaritans and Age Action and found it a great way of meeting people.”

After a brief period in England, Norah moved back to Galway and at 23, returned to education, taking a Fás access course and then going to NUIG where she studied Spanish. Now she is in her third year of a four-year degree in Community Development and it is this course that led her to set up Friends.

The idea had been developing in her head “for years”, and in August 2013, she and a colleague at NUIG organised a walk in Rinville Park with the idea of getting participants to give feedback on her concept.

This was done via a questionnaire about isolation in the community and how to tackle it.

To Norah’s surprise, the participants were of all ages, with one 22-year-old woman taking part. Norah had initially felt that a social group was most needed by older people, but after that experience, she revised her opinion and decided that it would be open to all adults.

The questionnaire responses showed that people felt classes would be a good way of meeting people, so Norah started looking for volunteers to share their skills. She also needed to find free venues for the classes as she had absolutely no money.

One place that has offered huge support is Ballybane Library on the east side of Galway City, where classes are held regularly. Currently there is a free course in computers, tablets and smartphones in the library. Many of the students are older people, while the tutors are all young, a couple of them from Spain and Brazil, so it’s a great way from people from different backgrounds to meet. It also allows foreign students to improve their English, so everybody benefits.

Tuam’s Traveller Resource Centre hosted its first Friends-run computer classes this week, and again the room was given for free, something Norah is grateful for.

“It’s hard enough to get space,” she says. “It’s my ambition to open our own space, maybe in Athenry or Oranmore.”

Such a centre could also operate a charity shop, to fundraise for Friends Ireland, she adds.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Living with the ignominy of anonymity on social media

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

Technically, I am on Facebook and Twitter, but I can never seem to quite motivate myself to tell all my virtual friends that my dog has overeaten today; that the cat has disappeared again without a word of explanation; or that the neighbour down the road is driving out in a brand-new car.

At times, I imagine that I’m suffering from some type of serious personality disorder because of my failure to get excited about sharing the most boring details of my daily chores with a cohort of people, some of whose names I am familiar with, while others could have no possible connection to my existence on this planet.

Mind you, I bear no animosity towards those people who want to befriend me via the world of fibre optics and instant communication from any part of the globe, but neither do I harbour any great desire to start up conversations about the banalities of life.

It really is bad enough to have to endure and survive those tribulations every day without having to trouble my newly-acquired set of friends – that I don’t know – with the details of how good or bad my day has been.

I’m sure that there are super ‘shrinks’ out there who will make a case for the virtue of being able to share your daily woes and wonders with those in the world of cyber space, but a thousand Facebook communications (not that I’ll ever make them) just can never compensate me for a face-to-face interaction with an old friend or even a regular verbal sparring partner in the local watering hole, who can jibe me about some alleged minor transgression on my part over recent times.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Huge study gives thumbs up to dairy in the diet

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Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

Every time I go to a café, I am amazed by the offering now available for people who no longer want to add milk to their brew. Even in the tiniest of coffee kiosks, they stock oat, soy or almond milk as an alternative to cow’s milk, usually for a surcharge of around 50c, reflecting the high cost of these alternatives.

The big food companies have lately got in on the act, offering non-dairy yogurts in the convenient small pots in most supermarkets. Customers no longer have to head to the health store for these premium, specialist products.

The trend to non-dairy and vegan diets – which means no animal products at all – has certainly become mainstream among Generation Z and Millennials.

But is it good for your health?

A comprehensive new study originating in Sweden would suggest otherwise – at least when it comes to the consumption of dairy.

The international team of scientists studied the dairy fat consumption of 4,150 adults aged 60 living in Sweden which has the world’s highest levels of dairy production and consumption.

They measured blood levels of a particular fatty acid that is mostly found in dairy foods rather than relying on people recording the amounts and types of dairy foods eaten, which may be unreliable given that dairy is commonly used in a variety of foods.

Experts then followed this group for an average of 16 years to observe how many died, had heart attacks, strokes and other conditions indicating cardiovascular disease (CVD). After statistically adjusting for other known CVD risk factors such as age, income, lifestyle, dietary habits, they concluded that those with higher intakes of dairy fat had a lower risk of CVD compared to those with low intakes.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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At the official opening of the new tile factory in Portumna on January 13, 1967.

1921

Tenants’ desperation

That the land question is far from settled in certain areas is obvious to those who have been reading the series of articles contributed to these columns by a correspondent in South Galway. The slowness of the Congested Districts Board has been proverbial.

Our correspondent suggests that failure to effect local settlements within a reasonable time, coupled with the inefficiency he charges, have brought about a condition of discontent which may result in a violent explosion at any moment.

No one could contemplate with equanimity such an outburst, for it might have an effect far beyond that intended and might endanger national peace at a period when its preservation is of supreme moment to the Irish people.

But it would seem indisputable that the Congested Districts Board is taking risks that no public body is entitled to take; and the completion of the division of the estates involved should be pushed forward in the public interest without further unnecessary delay.

The tenants on the Ardilaun estate at Cong have already taken the matter into their own hands. At a meeting attended by congests, some of whom walked fifteen miles to be present, it was declared that all confidence had been lost in the Congested Districts Board “which has long since practically ceased to function on this estate” and the tenants requested Dáil Éireann to take over the administration.

The facts in regard to the Ardilaun property are sufficiently remarkable to afford in themselves a damnatory criticism of the Board’s methods. It contains seven hundred householders, whose average valuation is from 15s. to £3. Congestion and poverty is abound; there is little untenanted land to relieve either.

Migration of bodies of tenants is the only real and permanent remedy. But nine years after the late Lord Ardilaun expressed his desire to sell, the Congested Districts Board has not, it would appear, put forward any real effort to relieve a distressing situation.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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