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Connacht Tribune

SvP’s vital work goes on despite impact of pandemic

Judy Murphy

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Volunteers Marie O'Donovan, Claire O'Keane, Michael O'Keane and Frank Leonard sorting hampers at the St Vincent de Paul Food Hub.

Lifestyle – St Vincent de Paul, which helps families and individuals experiencing financial difficulties, has had a challenging year. Its normal income streams were curtailed while many of its volunteers had to step back for health reasons. But the organisation has risen to the challenge thanks to co-operation and community support, as volunteer Marie O’Donovan tells JUDY MURPHY.

Most of us are just a pay packet away from poverty. That unpleasant reality is the reason why St Vincent de Paul, the charitable organisation which was founded in Paris in 1833 and established in Ireland in 1844, continues to remains so relevant.

“A lot of people in this country live hand to mouth from week to week,” says Marie O’Donovan of St Vincent de Paul in Galway City. So, it’s easy to see how things can go wrong. But in many cases, it takes very little to get a person’s life back on track – help to fund a training course maybe, buying books for college or perhaps stepping in to liaise with a utility company when bills suddenly spiral out of control.

The ethos, says Marie, is “a hand up, not a hand out”.

She began volunteering in the group locally in 1991 and, having moved away for a time for work, got straight back in after returning to Galway in 2005.

Since 1844, St Vincent de Paul has helped Irish people through famines, a War of Independence, a Civil War, two World Wars and several economic recessions but 2020 brought its own unique challenges.

“We had 120 to 130 volunteers in the city before last March. Six of us were left on the ground once Covid came,” Marie says.

That’s because many of the group’s volunteers are retired people, some of them in the ‘cocooning’ age group. Others had underlying conditions or were living with someone who was vulnerable.

There are 26 Conferences (basic operating groups) in the city, an area which also covers Oranmore, Oughterard and Claregalway. Towns such as Tuam, Clifden and Gort have their own conferences – traditionally every parish had one, which reflects its Catholic origins, with members normally meeting once a week. But that hasn’t happened since March.

Once lockdown started, the six remaining city volunteers were faced with “a huge demand” according to Marie, adding that demand was high anyway.

“From September to March is always very busy,” she says. That’s because families and individuals need support as children and students return to education in September. That’s followed closely by the expense of Christmas, while winter also means extra heating costs for people.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Student nurses face all the risk – for no reward

Dara Bradley

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Working on the children’s ward of a busy hospital during a global pandemic is no joke; less funny still when you’re not getting paid for your toil.

All the risk and none of the rewards of qualified staff – that’s the lot of Edel Moore, a student nurse who is currently on placement at University Hospital Galway.

Edel, and hundreds of student nurses like her on placement in UHG and Portiuncula in Ballinasloe, want more than a round of applause and platitudes from Government.

“None of us want a pat on the back for struggling. We’d just like to be recognised,” she said.

“The Government are full-time talking about front-line workers, and they want to give them a ‘clap hands’. Then you see Junior Ministers getting massive raises. For what? What have they done for us, the student nurses, that they’re getting a €16,000 wage increase?

“We’ve put ourselves through a four year degree but all I’m worth is a clap? Thanks! It’s ridiculous. They say that front-line workers deserve all the help they can get but it just seems that the ones who are able to give us the help we need are not going to give us the help that we deserve.”

Edel Moore is a mature student originally from Westmeath but living in Leitir Mealláin in Connemara with her husband and three children.

A third year student nurse of NUIG, she is currently on placement at the paediatric ward at UHG.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Island museum gets the green light

Declan Tierney

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An artist's impression of the proposed Inishbofin museum.

Work is expected to begin shortly on the construction of a museum on Inishbofin after planners gave the green light to the project.

The museum at Middlequarter is being developed by local historian and photographer Marie Coyne – and when completed, it will be home to items of historical significance from both Inishbofin and Inishark.

There is an existing museum on the island but it is too small to house the amount of artefacts, photographs and family histories that have been assembled over the years.

The new building will also include a photographic exhibition room, restoration workshop along with a gift shop and coffee dock. It is proposed that the new 3,400 square feet museum will be built on a site at the rear of Ms Coyne’s home.

Eamon Gavin of Eamon Gavin Architects based in Cornamona told the Connacht Tribune that this was an important project for the island and it was a welcome decision.

And he said that the green light would kickstart the process of conserving the vast and unique artefacts and archives built up over the years.

“As a practice, we have a long history of dealing with planning consultancy on unique rural sites in Connemara and the islands, therefore we fully understood how sensitive the proposed location of the project would be – the site is located in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and National Heritage Area,” he said.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Tuam woman a picture of health a year after Covid crisis

Declan Tierney

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Tuam's Kitty Farrell with her dog Lulu a year after her Covid diagnosis.

Last year was a Mother’s Day like no other for Kitty Farrell who spent it in the back of an ambulance being rushed to hospital with Covid – but the 80 year old Tuam woman can look forward to a more sedate celebration this time out….thankfully restored back to full health.

Kitty, from Ballygaddy Road, had developed a debilitating cough the previous week – and when she was admitted to UHG on Mother’s Day, she tested positive for the coronavirus despite a lack of symptoms.

The retired businesswoman spent the next nine days seriously ill in isolation – and all alone as her four children could not visit her.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to come through it but I was so sick that at times, it didn’t really matter. But the thought of passing away in isolation made a bad situation even worse,” Kitty said at the time.

A year on, she is back to full health, and while she restricts her movements, Kitty told The Connacht Tribune that she is just happy to be alive and she spends her days ‘pottering about’ and looking forward to the arrival of family members.

“Even though I don’t particularly agree with the current lockdown because everyone should be responsible for their own behaviour, I am living a life of relative isolation at the moment,” she said.

Read Kitty’s full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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