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Connacht Tribune

Confirmation donations help build primary school – in Tanzania

Dave O'Connell

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An African school owes its development to a visionary Galway nun, her brother-in-law school principal, and ten years of East Galway primary pupils who have given a slice of their Confirmation money to a great cause.

There’s a school in a remote village just over an hour south of the largest city in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, which is home to 3,000 pupils – and it’s all thanks to the seed capital provided by a Confirmation class on the Galway/Roscommon border!

That was back in 2007 when the pupils of Creagh NS decided to put some of their Confirmation money towards a good cause – and coupled with funds from sponsored walk, they raised an impressive €7,000 for their chosen project.

But this was also a family affair – because the instigator for the fundraising drive was former Creagh National School Vice-Principal Johnny Johnston, and his interest was stirred by his sister-in-law, Sr Annette Farrell, who had written to the pupils to tell them of her plight.

The Holy Union Sister and native of Kilconnell is over 30 years working in Tanzania, where she is a well-respected leading light – particularly in education – in that country’s former capital, Dar Es Salaam.

Sr Annette and Johnny Johnston came up with the Confirmation Project, where each year Sr Annette would write and tell the Confirmation class of a project she knew of that needed funding.

Back in 2007, Sr. Annette wrote and told the pupils about a remote village called Saku, where the children had to walk an hour to get to the closest school.

That same summer, Johnny Johnston, accompanied by his sons Barry and Conor, travelled to Tanzania to see what was needed for themselves – and thus the seeds for the school were sown.

Ten years ago, Éilis Treacy was the Sixth Class teacher in Creagh NS and, just as the pupils were infused with enthusiasm for this project, so too was their teacher.

Ten years on, Éilis is Principal of Eyrecourt NS – and now her students send a portion of their Confirmation money to Sr Annette too.

“While I taught in Creagh school we built the first classrooms of Saku and Churwi primary schools. We also supported the COBET project in building extra facilities.

“When I became teaching principal in Eyrecourt NS, I brought this idea with me and while we only have Confirmation every two years in our school with  less pupils, the children still pledge a portion of their gift money and take great pleasure in the photographs and letters Sr Annette sends them outlining the project the money supports,” she says.

Éilis is just back after another volunteering stint with the Holy Union Sisters in Dar Es Salaam, having also spent time there last year to help out and see the work that has been done, thanks in part to the generosity of these young Galway students.

“Each year before the Sixth Class made their Confirmation, Sr. Annette would write and tell them of a project that needed funding,” says Éilis.

“Sometimes it was a well for a village, the first ever project was tools for an apprentice and often the project was something to do with a school.

“This time, she asked the pupils for their help to build the school. She had started schools before with the assistance of the Creagh and Attyrory pupils.

“Then when these schools are up and running, the government take them over and fund them from then on,” she adds.

Éilis shot a video to show the students and supporters the impact their donations have made – as well as offering an insight into daily life at a bustling school.

Even with a large campus, a student body of 3,000 means that not all pupils have a classroom; the pre-schoolers learn outside while their teacher corrects their work under the shade of a tree.

The exam class too has school desks in the open air, shaded under a corpse of trees as the pupils study for their big test.

Éilis describes Sr Annette as an inspiration – and clearly the Kilconnell nun who who is now the Director of Holy Union Sisters Debrabant High School in Mbagala is a woman of influence in the country she has adopted as home.

She first arrived in Tanzania in September 1983 and she has been to the forefront of education development there ever since.

“There was a Bishop in Moshi Diocese who was interested in education so he applied to our congregation in Ireland for sisters who could come and help improve the standard of education in catholic schools,” she explained recent to a local newspaper, the Citizen.

“So I started working at some of the diocese institutions, which later came to be among the best performing schools in the country,” she adds.

For all of her time away from home she clearly hasn’t forgotten her roots; Sr Annette photographed for the paper wearing a tee-shirt from Galway!

Assisted by Éilis Treacy in August 2016, she was the local driving force behind Africa Code Week, with the help of the Galway Education Centre’s Brendan Smith, Bernard Kirk and Nuala Dalton, who spent the first week of June in Dar Es Salaam where Sr Annette’s secondary school hosted two days of ‘train the trainer’ sessions.

Sr Annette set up the COBET Street Children Project computer room, as part of a three-year accelerated primary school programme for teenagers and children who have never accessed school.

“She decided to install electricity and purchase 20 computers to give these children an extra chance for when they integrate into the government school for Form 4,” explained Éilis.

“This computer room opened in July 2016 and I worked with Rodney – the computer teacher employed by the Holy Union Sisters – to set up a programme teaching basic computer skills to the pupils.

“Many of these pupils – who were all between eight and 16 – had never touched a computer, TV or any type of electronic device,” she added.

And that is the sort of lateral thinking that has earned her such widespread respect, prompting the Citizen to ask her for her views on the future of education it that country.

“The country’s education sector is growing in quantity but not universally improving in quality. This is due to the fact that there are a lot of students but not sufficient planning and investment,” she says.

“For example, you have one teacher doing the work of three. This is not uncommon, go to any school and you will see for yourself. We were hoping that schools would get more teachers, but that is not the case,” she adds.

Sr Annette is particularly critical of the ‘one size fits all’ approach to education; she favours a version of the Irish system of Higher and Ordinary Level so that pupils can achieve their respective potential.

“We have children who have no ability in mathematics and no interest are forced to do the same exam like their counterparts brilliant in the subject. It’s like every child who gets into secondary school is preparing to go to the university,” she explains.

“This one programme could perhaps only suit about ten per cent and neglects the other 90 per cent.  I ask myself, what are the curriculum planners doing in Tanzania?

“We need comparative education system with various programmes to suit different levels of abilities. But in our schools today, there is no regards to drama, arts, music, little regard for sports, and it’s all cramming,” she adds.

But whatever about the bigger picture, she has helped to ensure that thousands of pupils have the chance of education close to home, not having to walk over an hour each morning and evening.

It’s all thanks to the vision of an Irish nun, the enthusiasm of her brother-in-law and his pupils – complemented ever since by generous Confirmation classes and teachers who have all done their bit to share the gift of education across the continents.

Connacht Tribune

Atlantic Therapeutics takes top award for medical breakthrough

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The overall winner of this year’s Irish Times Innovation of the Year award is Galway-based Atlantic Therapeutics, which also won the Life Sciences and Healthcare category. Pictured presenting the category award is Dr Ciaran Seoighe, Deputy Director General Science Foundation Ireland with Atlantic Therapeutics’ Richard Allen, Danny Forde, Dr Ruth Maher, Christina Walsh and Brendan McCormack. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

The Galway based med-tech company Atlantic Therapeutics has won the Irish Times ‘Innovation of the Year Award 2019’ – for developing a non-invasive, long lasting solution to bladder weakness and other disorders associated with pelvic floor muscle problems.

As many as one in three women and one in ten men suffer from urinary incontinence, primarily due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. The condition often goes untreated and unreported due to the embarrassment involved and the stigma felt by patients.

Atlantic Therapeutics’ innovative device – aptly called Innovo – is similar in style and feel to a pair of cycling shorts and works by strengthening and rebuilding the pelvic floor muscles.

Earlier this year the company, which is based in Parkmore Business Park, raised €28 million in investment ahead of a move into the US, just months after receiving FDA approval for its flagship Innovo technology platform.

Global Product Manager Danny Forde said the company was proud and humbled to be chosen as the Innovation of the Year for 2019.

“This win is recognition of the enormous collective effort our team has made around the world; from our Galway HQ to our offices in the US, UK, France & Germany, together with the strong support of our suppliers, partners, distributors, investors, advisors and most importantly of all, our customers,” he said.

“It’s a significant milestone in our mission to help millions of people restore their pelvic health and thereby their control, confidence and active lifestyle.

“We’ve heard from previous winners about the amazing impact that the Innovation of the Year Award can have, and we’ve already had an overwhelming reaction – it’s been a whirlwind!” he added.

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Connacht Tribune

MedTech recruiters are Guaranteed Irish

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Pale Blue Dot Recruitment on a recent visit to Cope Headquarters on the Tuam Road. The team raised over €1000 running the Streets of Galway and through various social media competitions. Pictured are (from left) Lynia O'Brien of Cope Galway, Anthony Griffin, Patrick Hughes, Olivia Kennedy and Sohini Mitra.

A Galway-based recruitment agency has been awarded the Guaranteed Irish symbol – following its pioneering partnership with COPE.

Pale Blue Dot Recruitment currently operates from Galway city centre and has become heavily involved in the local community. This year, the business partnered with COPE Galway as their Charity of the Year. A number of fundraising events for the charity were sponsored by Pale Blue Dot Recruitment, who also donated generously to the charity throughout the year.

Pale Blue Dot Recruitment works in professional placement for the MedTech industry, and is now connected with more than 50 percent of the professional MedTech workforce in the country.

Pale Blue Dot Recruitment joins 16 other Guaranteed Irish business members in Galway, including Stira, Revive Active, Hatman of Ireland and the WifOR Institute.

“Playing a role in the community and supporting local is something that Pale Blue Dot Recruitment holds very highly,” said MD Anthony Griffin. “COPE Galway provides so many services to the local community, supporting those who are in need most. We are delighted to support COPE Galway for the foreseeable future through various fundraising and awareness initiatives,” he added.

Guaranteed Irish is one of Ireland’s most enduring, recognisable and authentic symbols of trust. The business membership organisation has a network of 600+ members nationwide across various sectors, supporting over 71,390 jobs with an annual combined turnover of €11.2 billion to the Irish economy.

The Guaranteed Irish symbol helps Irish consumers identify products and services that are a better choice for jobs and local communities in Ireland.

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Connacht Tribune

Silke’s runs and scores proving a trump card for Corofin

Stephen Glennon

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Corofin's Liam Silke, in action against Matthew Kilgannon of Claregalway, has been central to the club's ongoing great success story.

IF there is one player who can light up a game — or turn said game on its head — then it is Galway’s and Corofin’s attacking defender Liam Silke.

A medical student at UCD, Silke undertakes his forays up field with surgical precision, underlined when he cut in behind the Ballintubber defence to goal in Corofin’s recent Connacht SFC semi-final victory. In a game that finished 1-10 to 0-11, Silke’s strike proved to be the deepest cut.

In many respects, the score summed up Liam Silke and what he brings to the game. So many times, he has done this for Corofin and Galway that it marks the designated defender out as one of Gaelic football’s most exciting players.

“Yeah, it is definitely something I try to do,” acknowledges the 24-year-old. “To be able to attack as well as defend is very important, to be able to contribute at both ends of the pitch. It just comes naturally to me; it is not something I think of too much. It is just something that happens in that I start making a run and I am happy enough to keep going forward.

“Thankfully, the (Corofin) players around me are able to cover and we are able to interchange. That makes it a whole lot easier. It can be a little bit of a gamble, but sometimes it pays off. Kevin O’Brien (manager) will always say when we have the ball we are 15 attackers, and when we don’t have the ball we are 15 defenders.

“So, it is encouraged by the management; they are always encouraging everyone to go out and play and express themselves. Also, I think the days of playing at corner back and just staying in the corner are kind of gone. Players can be coached and can be encouraged to be more attack minded, and can be given the licence to go out and do what they think is right.”

While Silke is enjoying his football at present, there are times when he finds it difficult to balance all — be it club and county, or football and his studies. These days approaching Christmas exams are always demanding.

“I am in college in UCD — I have two years left; I am on placement at the moment — and I have exams next week. So, the preparation isn’t ideal,” he notes. “You do get sick of the motorway after a while, but when you are coming home to play with Corofin and win county championships it makes it worthwhile.”

Whenever he finishes up with Corofin in this current campaign, he will return to inter-county duty with Galway. This, too, will place its own demands on him. He admits it can be difficult to carve out a little time and space for himself.

“It is not easy to get a break. It is just the way the GAA season is. It is not ideal, but there aren’t many clubs still going at the moment. So, it is kind of hard to find the right way to manage the calendar that it will work for everyone.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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