I’m not exactly sure that I could pin point a time, a decision or what not, that brought me here.

It’s an idea that had been forming for a while and after the completion of my TEFL Course in Galway I thought “it could be time”.

Two weeks of my life in front of a computer! That’s a time in my life that I will never get back. But those couple of weeks that I spent trawling the net, looking for the right project, is now paying off. Through a contact I came across on the Thorn Tree message forum, on the lonely Planet website, I was directed to www.kids.org and from there I found ‘The Genesis Project’.

Based in small costal city of Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador the project is run by Vladir Villigran. Vladir is a local man who has set-up this opportunity to help local schools by supplying volunteers to teach English. Money for teacher’s salaries and amenities (they recently constructed a toilet where there hadn’t been one before for a school of 60 students and their one teacher) and materials are also supplied. These schools lack the bare basics and the Genesis Project is helping to change that, little by little. The project also helps to sponsor some children that attend the Genesis School thanks to online donations through the Genesis website, among others.

So, I ran ideas by people. Dad, of course, was full of support and helped me to come up with some good ideas. From the start, and still now, peoples generosity and enthusiasm have overwhelmed me, whether it was hosting fundraisers, helping with the organizing and smooth running of or taking part in, people gave so much and each time I was in awe of good will of the people of Athenry. And I can assure you they feel the same way here. The money raised in Athenry is paying for the salary of a teacher for a full year. This is the same school, located high in the mountains that only recently received a toilet. (a hole in the ground was their means before this). Now instead of 60 students vying for the attention of one teacher the class can be broken up into 30 students per teacher. There is also the materials kindly donated by so many people, these materials have and will continue to make lives better and bring smiles, thank you.

As I write, this is my 5th week here and it has been amazing to date. From the day to day perspective of living there is always so much to learn and little things like getting the bus or buying a bottle of water are adventures. I won’t lie, people are not always trusting of ’La diabla Blanc’ but on the whole the Ecuadorian people are warm, inquisitive and knowledgeable.

When they hear I’m from Ireland the next question is usually “It’s cold there yes?” And, of course, there is the warmth that the Irish are received with abroad and, for that, I’m often grateful. But of most importance are ‘Los ninos’ the children. One of my first observations to the school director was, “They have an extra gear here!” They most certainly seem to have more energy than Irish children and there seems to be a more basic happiness here — especially as you encounter some of the poorer children. Teaching at Genesis has been fun, challenging, frustrating and eye opening. The children refer to teachers as ‘Aunt’ or ‘Uncle’ (‘Tia’ or ‘Tio’) and my heart warns every time I hear “ Tia Rosita” ( It rolls off the tongue far more easily than just Rose).I can rarely walk through the yard without a child attaching him or herself and giving me a big hug while asking how I am — in English if they are feeling particularly studious, otherwise a quick Quetal? (How’s things?)

At the moment there are three volunteers, including myself. Marshall is a return volunteer and from North Carolina and Graham is from Fermanagh (his mammy was delighted to hear that a girl from Athenry greeted her son off the bus in Bahia). Marshall and I have been teaching together in Genesis and Graham, who just joined us a week ago, and I have started teaching in the last two days at Escuela Jaime Polit.

This was our first real and major culture shock. The school is little more than four walls, a chalk board and some tables and chairs. No flashy posters adorn the walls, no windows, no air-conditioning. There is definitely a lack of the modern convinces that I took for granted in school. It’s here that I feel we will make the most impact. The children have never studied English before but I am bowled over by their enthusiasm and intelligence. We are already greeted by “Good morning teacher” as they spy us trekking up the dirt road to the school. We will have a good month of classes here with these students and I am confident that they will come on leaps and bounds.

So, despite all the mosquitoes, the occasional loneliness, sleepless nights due to the neighbour’s cockerel and all the other native irregularities, I don’t regret this trip one bit. In fact, I feel blessed, to have this opportunity to experience life here in Ecuador and hopefully, to make a difference, no matter how small.

There is nothing more hearth warming than a chiId’s smile and laughter, true, bright and uplifting.

Muchas Gracias de Ios todos.

The Athenry Junior Tidy Towns Committee was formed in May of this year. At the meeting which was held in Hansberry’s Hotel, the chairperson of the Tidy Towns Committee Christy Coffey, welcomed the big attendance of the youth of our town and surrounding areas and congratulated and wished them well in their new venture. He stressed that the involvement of our school-going children and young people is of the utmost importance. “By forming this Junior Tidy Towns Committee, you are showing the way to all other towns and villages in the county. You will also learn of the practical benefits of working and co-operating with friends and neighbours to protect and improve their town. It will make you aware of our environment and the responsibility that you will have in the future to protect it for your own children”, said Christy.

The Junior Tidy Towns Committee which has its own officers will be given a free rein and one of their first duties is of overseeing the Competition for The Best Kept, Litter Free, Street which is geared towards the schools. They were also involved in the distribution of application forms for the other competitions. They also organised and took an active part in the clean-ups. This has helped keep our town relatively free of litter.

The election of officers, which was presided over by the President of the Tidy Towns, Mr Tony Kilcommins and ably assisted by Mrs Peggy Farrell resulted in: Chairperson, Tracey Torpey; Asst. Chairperson, Sarah Mulkerrins; Secretary, Kelly Torpey; Asst. Secretary, Annabel Brody; Treasurer, Aisling Gallagher; Asst. Treasurer, Deirdre Foran; P.R.O., Rachel Barrett. Committee Members: Martina Molloy, Alan McNamara, Martin McNamara, Conor Judge, Leona Gardner, Eimer McNamara, Jennifer Healy and Clare Healy.

The County Galway Hunt, the Blazer’s Branch of the Irish Pony Club held its Summer Camp in Kilskeagh, Athenry last week. Most of the members attended and while fun and enjoyment were the order of the day the instruction on riding and horsemanship and of the proper care of their animals was also a very important part of the week.

Test were taken on the final day. All who were invited to do their tests were successful:

D Test: Lydia Ryan and Jonathan Mclnerney.

D+ Test: Lisa Holland, Conor Hynes, Pierse Mclnerney, Lorna O’Regan and Jason Ryan.

C. Test: Rose Barrett, Geraldine Gannon, Sarah Gavin, Paula Hynes, Vanessa Sheridan and Sarah O’Regan.

Felicity McGrath, aged 6, had the distinction of being the youngest member to attend camp for some time.

Sarah O’Regan and Sarah Gavin were honoured to be chosen to represent the Branch at Euro Camp which will be held this year in Gurteen Agricultural College near Roscrea, in Co. Tipperary.

Our thanks to all who helped to make the camp a great success, especially our instructors Helen Nolan and Paula Crowe, Treasurer Veronica Mclnerney, Secretary, Lavina Dempsey, District Commissioner Finbarr O’Regan, on whose land we held the camp and for the many helpers who were on hand.

Patricia McNamara was with our club as leader for many years. A very devoted person, she gave of her time and energy freely and we are sorry to see her leave. We wish her the best of luck in starting her own club with her students. We are delighted to welcome June O’Grady who has kindly come to help. We hope she will be us in the years to come and that her stay will be a rewarding one. I would also like to pay tribute to Jimmy Cahill, another devoted leader, who has stuck with us for quite some time despite our failings.

Recently we had a visit from the Regional Officer Patrick Bishop who helped us organise our agenda for the coming year. So far we have many plans for the future and hope to soon begin some projects and for these we wish for the support of the community.

Four girls from Athenry recently took part in a fundraising cycle for Croí: the ‘Lough Corrib Cycle’. The girls, Ciara 0’Grady, Niamh Hoyne, Caroline Kelly and Rose Barrett cycled from Galway to Maam Cross, a total of twenty five miles, in what turned out to be one of the wettest days of the year. Their efforts raised £340 towards the heart unit at U.C.H.G.

The four girls, recently, presented the cheque to Neil Johnson, director of fundraising, Croí.

The girls wish to say a big thank you to everyone who sponsored them.

The Athenry Foróige, Tír na nÓg club held their A.G.M. on September the 15th last. At the meeting the following officers were elected: Chairperson, Susan Pomphrett; Secretary, Michael O’Regan; Treasurer, Ciara O’Grady; P.R.O., Rose Barrett; Asst. Chairperson, Denise Martin; Asst. Secretary, Edel Quinn; Asst. Treasurer, Kathryn Healy; Asst. P.R.O., Denise O’Reilly.

Plans were made out. lt was decided that we will enter the drama competition and be involved in the annual discos, soccer tournaments and other such events. We will also hold a fundraising event.

As P.R.O. I would like to thank, on behalf of the club members, Patricia McNamara and everyone who has helped us on our way.

Rose Barrett P.R.O.

The Co. Galway Hunt, The Blazers, Branch of the Pony Club is sadly one of Athenry’s lesser known organisations. Its band of loyal followers have one thing in common, the love of horses. I myself am a member of The Blazers Pony Club, and proud to be one.  The aim of the Pony Club is to encourage young people to ride and learn to enjoy all kinds of sport connected with horses and riding.  To provide instruction in riding and horsemastership and to instill in members the proper care of their animals.  To promote the highest ideals of sportsmanship, citizenship and loyalty, thereby cultivating strength of character and self-discipline.

We have a rally every week in various parts of the countryside where we are given instruction on all aspects of horsemanship.  Clean, well fitting tack, well groomed animals, proper dress and good manners are essential.  Our main meeting place is the Kennels in Craughwell, home of “ The Blazers”.  Our District Commissioner Mr. Finbarr O’Regan also makes his farm in Kilskeagh available for most of the rallies.  This place is ideal for our flat work, cross-country and showjumping.

For the younger members there are mounted games and we enter a team each year.  In fact we represented our area in the All Ireland Pony Club mounted games for the past two years.  We also send a team to the All Ireland Triathlon which is usually held in Adare, Co. Limerick and this year’s team did quite well, The Triathlon includes swimming and running as well as riding cross-country.

The highlight of the year is a week long camp which was held this year in Kilskeagh.  It was lovely to see a herd of over twenty horses and ponies out in the paddock together as they were kept there for the week.  The grooming, tack cleaning, instruction, quizzes and mucking out was hard work, but the games, showjumping and cross-country were more enjoyable.  At the end of the week when the tests were over and passed we had a barbecue and prize giving. I was delighted with my prize for the cleanest tack.

The Athenry members include: Annabel Brody on Trigger, Giles Brody on Grease Lightning, Doug Costello on Dinky, Olivia Finn on Whiskey, Sarah Gavin on Jessy, Lisa Holland on Amanda Lady, Geraldine Gannon on Ginger Lady, Michael O’Regan on Star, Brian O’Regan on Beauty and Indiana Jack, Sarah O’Regan on Crocodile Dundee, Lorna O’Regan on Dusky Traveller, Vanessa Sheridan on Mickey Star, Pierce McInerney on Happy, and myself, Rose Barrett on Dawn Run.
We thank our parents and instructors Helen and Paula – and all involved for their help.

Feature photo: Prizewinners from the Blazers Pony Club at the Athenry Agricultural Show this year were – Sarah O’Regan (Crocodile Dundee), Sarah Gavin (Jessy) and Vanessa Sheridan (Mickey Star). This team also represented our Branch at the Triathlon in Adare.