Yvonne Frizzell’s eyes light up at the prospect of returning to Pakistan before the month is out.
When the pandemic hit, Yvonne and her husband Jim left their adopted home – where they run a free clinic she founded to help children with disorders such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida.
They spent the lockdown with their son John in Corrandulla, where he is renovating Cregg Mill, an imposing 18th century watermill. Their daughter Louise lives in Salthill.
Yvonne continued to manage the staff of 34 at the clinic remotely from a cottage behind the mill. While it was closed twice due to local restrictions, they kept the orthotic department open to help children whose parents can travel for days to attend.
The London-Irish paediatric physiotherapist first went to Pakistan in the early ’80s on an adventure with her husband, who is a Geordie. He had fallen in love with the subcontinent in South Asia when he was a young engineer.
“My husband had a friend in London who said why don’t you come and have a meal in my mother’s house. He said ‘I’d love to, what night?’. Abdul said, ‘no, not in London. In Bangladesh’. So they bought a car and went over land from London to Bangladesh. My husband is a bit eccentric, he goes wherever the wind blows.”
They spent five years in Peshawar where she began intensively treating a three-year-old boy with cerebral palsy whose family she met while volunteering in a school.
When the family decided to quit Pakistan in 1989 for County Kildare to allow their son and daughter to experience childhood in Europe, Akbar, then aged 7, fell into a deep depression.
“My husband said why doesn’t he come to live with us in Athy. Luckily, we had a big old house. His mum and dad used to come over once a year in the summer and we would bring him back to Pakistan every winter. We got him an Irish passport and we had guardianship of him until he was 21.”
His family then suggested Yvonne return to live again in Pakistan and set up a clinic for children like Akbar. They were wealthy industrialists and wanted to give something back. That was 2005 and since opening the doors, the Akbar Kare Institute has treated 17,000 children with atypical developmental disorders.
“We’re the only ones doing this job – there are over 200 million people in Pakistan. Just 6.4 per cent of these children go to school – 72 per cent of their mothers have no education at all. Every year we’re seeing more and more children – in the three months up to August we’ve seen 670 new families and 840 previous children,” she explains.
“They might travel hours and hours and hours to see us. The majority of them come because of word of mouth. We have an open-door policy, there’s no fee for anything. It really does change lives.”
As well as hosting a school for both parents and children, and treating children with physio and occupational therapy, fitting them for braces and splints, the institute has an appliance workshop where they make wheelchairs and standing frames from recycled material and upholster wheelchairs to make them bearable for children to sit long hours in.
Jim has trained up carpenters to make the equipment after designing several weight-bearing devices to help children walk.
The couple sold their house at the right time during the Celtic Tiger and invested wisely. All their work in Pakistan is voluntary. They stay in a home belonging to Akbar’s family, who have since moved to Islamabad.
Yvonne happily browses pictures of the children whose lives the institute has transformed – children who are doubled over can sit up, others who are confined to the floor find themselves whizzing about on a set of wheels.
She can’t wait to be working among them again.
Ethics Officer finds FF councillors did nothing wrong with €180,000 pot
Four Fianna Fáil councillors in the Tuam area accused by colleagues of ‘hijacking’ a €180,000 fund, have been told they did nothing wrong.
The fund was allocated to Tuam Municipal Council as part of a €1 million allocation by the Government to the county’s five municipal councils in order to “strengthen municipal districts”.
While the other area councils agreed amongst themselves on where the money should be spent, agreement could not be reached.
Instead, the four Fianna Fáil councillors, who have control of the seven-member Tuam Municipal Council, decided where the money should be allocated, which infuriated the other three members.
The matter was referred to the Ethics Officer of Galway County Council who was asked to investigate if this contravened the Minister’s direction as to how the money should be spent.
Now, Fianna Fáil Chairman of Tuam Council, Cllr Donagh Killilea, has been informed that they did not contravene the ethical framework for local government and it was a democratic decision.
He said that it was a needless and expensive route to ask the Council’s Ethics Officer to investigate how they conduct their business as local representatives “given that there was never any clear evidence of wrong-doing.”
When the dispersal of the €180,000 was being discussed by the Tuam area councillors, it was the four Fianna Fáil members who used their majority vote to dictate where the money would be spent – the other three councillors were ‘left out in the cold’.
This infuriated Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG), Cllr Pete Roche (FG) and Cllr Karey McHugh (Ind) who accused the Fianna Fáil councillors of pulling ‘a political stunt’.
They also took issue with the fact that the other municipal districts arrived at a general consensus as to how the money should be spent.
A ‘behind closed doors’ meeting between the seven councillors to discuss the dispersal of the fund that was agreed, but it never took place.
In prompted Cllr Reddington to table a motion at a full Galway County Council meeting that the Ethics Officer investigate the manner in which the distribution of the €180,000 was being handled.
A report from Council Chief Executive Jim Cullen states that the Ethics Officer investigated the claims that the €180,000 was unfairly distributed between the four FF councillors.
But the official concluded that the matter was discussed at length and that the decision on the allocation of the funds was determined by a majority vote of the members.
The officer stated that the decision was based on a motion that was voted upon and duly carried and complied with the Minister’s requirements.
The Chief Executive along with the Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Cllr Peter Keaveney, having considered the Ethics Officer’s report, have concluded that no further action is required.
“If every time we call for an investigation when a vote is won or lost, it is my opinion that we will never get any business done as a Municipal.
“It’s time to bury the sour grapes and get on with representing the people who elected us; the distractions of the past six months have to end,” Cllr Killilea added.
(Photo: Cllr Donagh Killilea)
Coffins have to brought by tractor over flooded North Galway road
Annual flooding on a stretch of road in North Galway requires the necessity for a tractor and trailer to bring the remains of a deceased person from the area to the local cemetery.
This was the claim at a local area meeting when it was demanded that Galway County Council carry out flood relief works on the road near Glenamaddy which is left under several feet of water every winter.
It resulted in Cllr Peter Keaveney tabling a motion at the Ballinasloe Municipal Council meeting that essential drainage works take place along the Roscommon road out of the town now that water levels are low. He wants this carried out within the next two weeks.
During one of the worst winters in recent years, the road was closed for three months and the Fine Gael councillor and agricultural contractor said that he pulled around 20 cars out of the flooded stretch when motorists decided to take the chance of driving through it.
Even in drought conditions, the levels remain incredibly high and this is mainly down to a local turlough that retains water throughout the year.
While he said that Galway County Council officials were extremely helpful, the problem lay with the Office of Public Works who would not allow drainage works as the road is situated in a Special Area of Conservation.
Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell informed the meeting that Galway County Council are in a position to carry out some works but there are certain areas that only the Office of Public Works can drain.
Mr Mitchell said that the best way forward was a co-ordinated approach involving the County Council and the OPW while accepting that there was a major problem with flooding along this road.
In response, Cllr Keaveney said that this was a very acceptable move and added that a joint approach to the flooding in Glenamaddy was required at this stage and particularly with the winter approaching.
Williamstown’s Cllr Declan Geraghty said that residents were living in hell as some of them saw their houses destroyed by rising flood waters near Glenamaddy.
“There are even deceased people being brought by tractor and trailer to be buried which is an absolute disgrace. There is an opportunity to do this now or otherwise we are looking at flooding for the next 10 years.
“People have put everything into their homes only to see them destroyed when it comes to prolonged heavy rainfall.
“There is a solution to this problem and environmental issues should not take precedence,” he added.
The Independent councillor said that raising the level of the road, which leads to Creggs and onto Roscommon, was not the answer to the problem because the levels were so high.
Galway County Council have carried out several surveys of the area around the flooded road and officials told previous meetings that, subject to approval from the OPW, there was an engineering solution possible.
(Photo Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.)
Teen arrested over €45,000 cocaine seizure
Gardaí have seized €45,000 of what they believe to be cocaine in Ballinasloe.
Gardaí attached to Ballinasloe Garda Station conducted an intelligence-led operation in the Dunlo Harbour area of the town yesterday.
During the course of this operation a quantity of suspected cocaine, estimated to be worth €45,000, concealed on derelict grounds was seized.
A male in his mid-teens was arrested at the scene and detained at Ballinasloe Garda Station on Sunday.
He has since been released with a file being prepared for the Garda Youth Diversion Office.
The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels.