A group of people who can’t afford Christmas Day dinner, or who for various reasons don’t have the enthusiasm for it, are being brought together this year by the city’s newest organisation.
However, Lean on Us is a very low-key group because the very people they want to help want to keep that assistance private.
You could say there’s a ‘new poor’ in Galway City — a group of people who wouldn’t dream of seeking help from the St Vincent de Paul Society to name but one organisation.
They might have run small businesses that went belly up in the recent recession and now find they are just barely keeping afloat as they repay bank loans on companies that no longer exist.
Lean On Us was the brainchild of one Salthill-based woman who wants to keep her anonymity to protect the very people being helped.
Teresa, a former teacher now working in accounts, said she came across so many people who were in dire straits who were under the radar of charities like SVP.
“I realised that there were a lot of people troubled by finances, people you wouldn’t think were poor but who I knew couldn’t put food on the table.
“In September I came up with the idea and now there are 12 volunteers helping families of all ages across the city in a very low-key way.
“No money is involved. No fundraising has been undertaken. This is all about donations of food distributed to families in a very low-key, discreet manner. I take the bus rather than use my own car when delivering food to protect their identities as they don’t want people to know how badly off they really are,” she explained.
But the low-key approach had to be broken this week when Teresa realised that they would need a suitable venue if they were to provide a Christmas Day meal for up to 30 people.
“I have had people in my own house and I wanted to share our own day with some families, but there were too many to fit in my own house, so I decided to spread the word.”
Only hours after being on the Keith Finnegan Show on Galway Bay FM last week, Teresa got offers from NUI Galway, the Dominican Hall and a restaurant, owned by Michael Keaney in Ballybane to use their premises on the day.
Teresa was already visiting one of these venues when she spoke to the Galway City Tribune about her plans for the day.
“All the food will be donated and probably cooked by the volunteers on or off the premises. Obviously we won’t be publicising where we choose because we want to continue helping these people discreetly.
“I know if I was in their shoes, I would be the last person to seek help with SVP or anyone. They all do great work but some people don’t accept their new circumstances or are too private and proud to seek help.”
Because Lean On Us doesn’t publicly seek the ‘new poor’ Teresa and her volunteers use other means to find them.
“I sometimes sit in the foyer of University Hospital Galway or listen to people on buses and I approach them gently if I feel they qualify for the service we are providing. I just give people my number and, usually, they do contact me because they know they will be helped discreetly.”
Teresa dismisses any suggestion that she is a ‘do gooder’ saying she is only doing what she believes has to be done to ensure these families are not ignored.
She has studied counselling but also uses her own common sense and decency when talking to people.
“The Red Cross has also come on board for the day and as well as being able to provide a Christmas lunch for a few families, they might also get comfort from knowing they are not alone,” she adds.
As well as food donations, Teresa said Christmas decorations would be welcomed to make the chosen venue festive for the occasion.
Anyone interested in donating or becoming involved as a volunteer or indeed going to the Christmas meal can ring Teresa on 0851763927.
Exploring the merits of moving into the west
Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.
“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.
These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.
But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.
Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.
One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.
The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing
A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.
They lifted and footed his turf.
John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.
He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.
“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.
Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!
“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.
Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.
They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.
Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat
It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.
After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.
“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”
But it could have all been so different.
Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.
She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.
Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.
Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.
Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.