For four years now, the ARD Women’s Circle (Ardaun-Roscam-Doughiska) has been bringing together women from the locality to develop networks in the community, learn new skills and at its very essence provide an opportunity to meet neighbours and friends in an area that is just finding its feet.
Coordinator and facilitator of the group, Grace Jennane, says that it all started with a realisation that countless women were dropping into the ARD Family Resource Centre but never actually interacting with each other.
Grace, who was doing a Tús Scheme – at the centre, saw an opportunity for a group that would bring women of all cultures, nationalities and religions together – and so the ARD Women’s Circle was founded.
“They weren’t talking to each other, because they were all from different cultures,” says Grace.
“There was a lot of women that didn’t even want to come in because they were feeling socially excluded for one reason or another.”
Originally, the group was set up to do art and painting, but such was the demand for joining the group that it became apparent there would be scope to do more.
“I couldn’t believe that in the first few weeks, we had over 30 people who wanted to join.
“They all realised that that even though they might be from a different belief, religion, culture, country or whatever – they all had similar experiences and similar problems in their lives,” explains Grace.
It is for that reason that Grace believes the group’s primary role, ahead of all the skill workshops and classes they hold, is that of a social outlet where local women from the area can communicate with each other for two hours every week.
“I didn’t think it would be so fluid,” concedes Grace. “But it’s amazing that there is nobody sitting there on their own – straight away, if a new person comes in, they’re actually all sitting around her and it’s really good to see that.”
In everything that the group does, each person is learning something about someone else’s culture – be that food, dress, religion or anything else. Just by talking to each other, they are educating each other.
This, according to Grace, opens people’s minds and gives them an opportunity to ignore prejudice and make their own decisions based on the people around them.
“We brought the ladies to the mosque and they went around to the Imam who talked to them and they asked questions like, ‘why do women have to wear the hijab’, so he explained that it is not necessary. While some people might think it is obligatory, it is a choice, some women wear it to feel closer to God.
“They realise that it is just a piece of material but she is the same as me,” says Grace.
Grace smiles as she talks about her pride in the group, and for the way they have worked together to create a positive impact for the women of Doughiska.
“It takes you out of that social exclusion box, which can be a very dark place,” she says.
For a group that started just to do art, its repertoire has expanded greatly over the years.
To date, the group has created mosaics, become au fait with the intricacies of decoupage, got involved in the community garden, sold Christmas gifts in a pop-up shop that they were part of setting up, not to mention the daytrips and outings they have had.
Already marked on the schedule for this year is wood coppicing, and this is something that Grace says all the members are waiting with great anticipation for.
“I think they are really looking forward to the coppicing and the wood burning because when the Galway 2020 were in the woods, Debbie, the lady who does it, they went down and they were looking at what she was doing and they were very impressed.
“We had a lady in before we started the mosaic and she did perfume making with us using flowers they found in the woods – we are also going to make jewellery with one of the women from the group,” outlines Grace as she reels off the extensive list of activities the group are involved with.
She reserved much praise for her fellow facilitator, Karen Roberts, whom she credits with organising the outings the group go on.
She explains that the process of choosing what the group will do is based on a vote by those involved – with meetings regularly attracting up to 20 attendees per week.
The group collaborates with the ARD Gardening Group, having worked on various projects with them in the past.
One of its biggest successes was the summer barbeque last year where the community had the opportunity to come together and view the work that goes on in the area.
“We had a picnic in the community garden last summer and that was with a social inclusion grant from the Council – it was amazing and the ladies from the mosque came and brought their Pakistani food and everyone absolutely loved it,” says Grace.
For all the work that the ARD Women’s Circle do, Grace believes none of it would be possible without the huge support that the ARD Family Resource Centre provides.
“We have to be grateful for a lot of people that live around us in this community for putting Doughiska first.
“There’s many different nationalities here – it’s like our own little globe and it’s working because people are working hard to make it work, and it wouldn’t if things were left.
“There’s still a lot to do, especially in the woods, where a few of the younger people are causing problems but hopefully, as they grow up, they’ll start to do things with the woods.
It will be nice to see Merlin Woods being used because it is very important for one’s mental health and wellbeing,” she says.
Grace believes that it is thanks to the dedication of those who work in the ARD Family Resource Centre that a community exists in the Doughiska-Roscam-Ardaun area – with that famous Galway friendliness extending out to the city’s newest suburb.
“Lidl is lethal now,” she laughs. “You go in and you can’t get out for two hours. It’s nice to have a smiling face when you leave your house – it makes your day a little bit less stressful and life is stressful enough.”
The ARD Women’s Circle meets every Wednesday morning from 10am in the ARD Family Resource Centre.
“We are always open and welcoming to new members. We are a non-judgemental group and we are open to all women of all cultures, races and backgrounds from all areas of Galway,” says Grace.
Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
GMIT warns partying students they are delaying return to campus
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Partying students have been told their actions have impacted GMIT’s plans to re-start practical classes on campus – and Gardaí are monitoring the city’s bus and train stations to catch those breaking the 5km travel restriction by returning home for the weekend.
College authorities said the current “extremely serious outbreak” of Covid-19 among students in Galway City was caused by a small minority who are “moving and mixing between different households”.
Following a meeting with Gardaí last week, GMIT contacted all students to clarify that because there are no ‘onsite’ classes, there should be no need to travel for educational purposes.
“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” students were told.
In a separate communication issued this week, the college’s Covid Officer appealed to students to abide by the rules.
“This outbreak has had an impact on our plans with regard to return to onsite practical work, with consequences for all students.
“We are appealing to all students to comply with all Covid restrictions and in doing so, to help ensure that those students who have to return to onsite practical work can do so,” the email read.
Many students from outside the city have opted to stay in their accommodation for access to better broadband.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more coverage of Covid figures and vaccinations, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.