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News...at a glance - August 17th

 

Strokestown playwright’s success!

A short play by Strokestown-based playwright, Rose Byrne, was selected to be performed as part of the Cruthu Arts Festival in Co. Longford last month.

  The play called ‘Diversions’ will be performed along with three others this Friday (17th) in Mitchell’s Lounge in Legan, Co. Longford at 8 pm.

Breastfeeding support group meeting

The Roscommon Friends of Breastfeeding Mum2Mum Group will meet this Saturday (18th) in Hannon’s Hotel at 10.30 am.

  The group will be celebrating two years of providing peer breastfeeding support in the local area! All mums-to-be, mums and their children are welcome to join us in Hannon’s Hotel at 10.30 am this Saturday for breastfeeding information, support, a cuppa and cake!

  The group meets on the third Saturday of every month. Contact Julie  on 087-7554385 for further information or check out our Facebook page.

Family get-together in Ballybay Church

To celebrate the World Meeting of Families, Kiltoom Parish is hosting a family get-together this Sunday (19th) after 11.30 am Mass in Ballybay Church.

  Refreshments will be provided in the parish hall and there will be a children’s party with lots of goodies, face-painting, and even a surprise visitor! All are welcome.

Fr Pat Brennan Brazilian Mission Fund

 

The Fr. Pat Brennan Brazilian Mission Fund is appealing for donations in order to continue vital work in some of the poorest areas of Brazil.

  Mass will take place at 8 pm in St. John’s Community Centre in Lecarrow this Friday evening (17th). There will be refreshments available afterwards and a raffle on the night.

  All are welcome and all support would be very much appreciated.

Suck Valley Development Walk

The Suck Valley Development Walk will take place from Ballygar to Creggs this Saturday morning (18th).

  Registration takes place at the Heritage Centre in Creggs at 9.30 am and transportation will be provided to Ballygar.

Refreshments will be provided on return to Creggs. Cost is €10. Text Cathy on 086-8725445 to secure a place.

RSPCA AGM takes place tonight

 

The Roscommon Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is holding its AGM tonight (16th) at 7 pm at The Hub in Castlerea.

Church Gate Collections for RSPCA

 

Roscommon Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is having their annual Church Gate Collections on Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th of August 2018 at Whitehall Church.

  All funds raised goes directly to animal welfare in the county.

Blood Donation Clinics next week

 

A Blood Donation Clinic will be held in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon on Tuesday 21st, Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd of August from 5 pm-8.30 pm. For more information, email giveblood.ie, contact LoCall: 1850 731 137.

Graveyard Masses at Kileenan and Ardcarne

 

Graveyard Masses will take place at Kileenan Cemetery this Saturday (18th) at 3 pm, and Ardcarne Graveyard on Sunday, 19th at 12 noon.

  A collection will be held at the entrance to Ardcarne Graveyard to fund the lighting of Ardcarne Church and Graveyard.

 

‘We offer an understanding ear to all people’

 

 

 

David Gleeson, a chartered accountant by profession, first became a volunteer at Vita House over a decade ago and now acts as its chairperson.

  “Our legal structure is a company limited by guarantee and that has been set up for the last number of years and I currently act as the chairperson.

  “I’m a chartered accountant by profession so I hopefully bring some of the experience gained in that field to this role in a voluntary capacity,” he said.

  Since its foundation, Vita House has always relied on dedicated people with a passion for helping and supporting others.

  “At the top of the Vita House structure, so to speak, is the board of directors, and we have voluntary people on that. We would have some employed people but we have a good few volunteers, people who help out on a day-to-day basis as the need arises.

  “It’s the quality of the service that’s being offered here by those people. We cater for all types of people, whether it’s families or individuals or partnerships. We are, of course, non-judgemental in the services that are provided so they feel that they get a good quality service and good advice on the issues that they bring here and that they’re given a sympathetic, non-judgemental ear”.

  While Vita House is situated on the grounds of the Sacred Heart Church, David emphasised the fact that the service is non-denominational.

  “We cater for all people, whatever creed they have. When someone comes to the door we don’t ask about faith or whether they even have a faith, they are invited in and whatever their problems are we try and help them. We are non-denominational and we look after everybody,” he said.

  Funding for services such as Vita House is vitally important and David says that while there is some government funding available, the people of Roscommon and surrounding areas have played their part.

  “We would get grants from various government agencies that provide some of the services but we also rely on voluntary donations, for example for the Suicide Bereavement Service and also the Cancer Care services.

  “We are indebted to the people, particularly in the Roscommon region, who have supported us in the recent past and continue to support us”.

  Looking to the future, David believes the need for the services provided at Vita House will continue to grow.

  “Unfortunately, the demand for the services is not reducing, it’s increasing, and that’s maybe a sign of the society we are living in and the so-called pressures that are put on people in modern living.So there’s greater demand on our services and our brand new offices that we have here are at maximum capacity. We will have to take into account how to cater for this extra demand for services. That’s a constant issue that we, as the board of directors, and Marian Keigher, as Director of Services, are constantly looking at and how we can improve services,” he said.

  Despite the challenges he faces as its chairperson, David finds reward in the fact that Vita House has helped so many people in need.

  “It’s challenging alright but it certainly is rewarding. I would be of the school of thought that you give back to the community; the community is made up of people giving back to it. If you give back to the community, you, your family and indeed the community will benefit from it,” he concluded.

 

It's Judge Ruth!

 

Fashion & Beauty blogger Ruth McCourt from Roscommon town was chosen by JOE.ie & Halo Nightclub in Galway to judge the ‘Best Dressed Gent’ competition on the Saturday of the Galway Races alongside well-known TV3 weatherman Deric Ó hArtagáin.

  Ruth was also featured in the Daily Mail on the Monday of the Galway Races, attending the annual Prom to Paddock event and she was interviewed by Xposé, the Irish entertainment, fashion and beauty programme, giving her beauty and survival tips for the Galway Races (this aired on Friday, the 8th of August).

  Ruth really made strides in the fashion world last year, and was chosen as a finalist for ‘Best Dressed’ event by model and former Miss World Rosanna Davison and Her.ie Editor Gillian Fitzpatrick for Best Dressed Lady for Ladies Day at ‘Halo Race Week’.

* Keep up with Ruth and follow her on social media @FashionTruthByRuth on Instagram and Facebook.

 

 

Betty found direction behind ‘warm, red door'

 

 

Castlerea native, Betty Keaveney (nee Brennan), lost her mother, Bridget, in 1955 at the tender age of eleven. Betty and her twin brother Sean were the oldest of eight children and so the responsibility of taking care of her younger siblings fell to Betty. Luckily, she had a good mentor in her father, Paddy.

  Later in life, Betty would suffer another heartbreaking loss when her husband Seamus passed away at a young age in 1999. It was then that Betty discovered Vita House, which in turn led to her rediscovering herself.

  “We grew up with an outstanding father; kind, gentle, strict but lenient. He would sing at night and play games with us before he went on night duty – he was a nurse in the hospital.

  “He was very calm, very gentle. He taught me to sew, to cut hair – he taught me everything I knew. But even being so young I looked at him and thought ‘He’s there for us but who’s there for him?’ Later in life, when I was 16 or 17, he did remarry; many times I thought to myself that it was just to give me the chance to move out.

  “It was tough at times but there was an awful lot of laughter in the house and the laughter was healing.

  “The thing I found the toughest was when the ‘kids’ would cry out for mama and ask why she had to go to ‘God’s house’. I remember getting angry at God.

  “When I did the Rainbow training in Vita House I couldn’t believe how similar the training was to what I had experienced as a child. When I was young I thought if I just fix it for my younger siblings and make them laugh they’d be okay. Whereas with the Rainbow training, I was taught to help children find their own strengths. This is what amazes me – did I choose Vita House or did it choose me?”

  So how did Betty cope with such heartbreaking responsibility at such a young age?

  “I was always the type of person who wanted to be there for other people. I’d hear the children crying and be too busy caring for them (to dwell on things)”.

  Betty’s very nature led to her joining the nursing profession in her late teens, but due to illness she was forced to return home. She said it was one of her biggest regrets.

  “I got on the nursing staff and I loved it but I was taken ill and was three days in the hospital in Castlerea before being sent home,” she said.

  Before she fell ill there was fun to be had in her temporary freedom away from home and, following the late-night checks of the dorms, Betty and her companions would enjoy late-night excursions.

  “She (supervisor) wouldn’t have the door handle switched up and we were out the window and gone dancing,” she laughed.

  Following her recovery from illness, Betty worked as a dental nurse for a time before moving to England, where she was gradually joined by her younger siblings.

  She remembers docking in England following heart-wrenching goodbyes at the train station back home.

  “All I had was the name of girl I had known back home. But she didn’t turn up to meet me. Getting off that boat I know in my heart and soul that it was my mother protecting me.

  “This kind ‘gentleman’ had this taxi and he came to meet me on the dock. He asked if I was looking for accommodation and I was all happy and told him I was. He told me he could get that for me and guaranteed me work within days. I felt something was wrong and when he went to pick up my bag I stopped him. I could see my mother so vividly, an image of her sitting there. I wouldn’t have known about anyone preying on girls to groom them or anything like that. I believe my mother protected me.

  “Being Irish in England was tough but there was an awful lot of humour and that’s what pulled us through,” she said.

  Before moving to England, Betty had met her future husband, Seamus Keaveney, at a dance back home.

  “Seamus was home on holiday from England when we met. I remember saying to a friend ‘Would you go down and ask that big fella’ to turn around and we’ll get a look at his smog?’ After a while I got a tap on the shoulder and he asked: ‘Would you dance miss?’

  “I remember afterwards saying to a friend that I would never, ever settle down until I had had one more night on the dancefloor with Keaveney. He was a brilliant dancer!”

  The pair began to write to each other and rekindled their romance once Betty moved to England. They came home in order to be married in St. Patrick’s Church in Castlerea in 1966, before returning to England.

  “We were married when I was 23 and we had three daughters – I didn’t realise there was a second variety until it was too late!”

  Betty and Seamus were beginning to make a comfortable life for themselves in England when Seamus’ father became ill and they were forced to move back home.

  “At that time when you got a call to move back, you moved back. I never thought I’d ever be back. Seamus had said that he’d return home and come back to England once a month. I told him I’d rather be in the turf shed or the hay shed and be together. That’s all I ever knew in our house; all hands in, all hands out”.

  The couple and their young family made the most of their situation over the following years and began to thrive back on home soil. Sadly, however, Seamus became ill at the young age of 52 and passed away in 1999.

  “We had just built up the farm and made things very easy for ourselves. By God there were times after his death I was like a headless chicken. But no matter what, I had six years looking after him and they were six years I had him all to myself. The craic was still there between us and we have super memories,” she said.

  Betty has her late husband to thank for her involvement with Vita House. She used to accompany him when he went to the mart and it was this habit that led to her becoming aware of Vita House.

  “When Seamus came into the mart I’d come in with him and ramble around. After his death I was still coming in and one day I drove past Vita House with its warm, red door and wondered what went on here.

  “I came in to do the psychology course and went on to do all the courses available to me. I was blown away by it, there’s so much here,” she said.

  She also found solace in writing poetry and is considering returning to Vita House to take part in the Writers Club. She remains very much at home at Vita House and credits it with helping her to cope with the pain of losing her husband at such a young age.

  “There was a time when I could see no reason to live, not that I didn’t want to live but you’re left looking around an empty four-bedroomed house.

  “There have been some horrendously tough times, but finding out who I was became very important. You have to find out who you are in order to be confident. I learned how to say ‘No’ at Vita House.

  “Music and dancing were also my lifeline and my salvation. I still go dancing. I’ve always thought it was very important to find the laughter or the humour in things,” she said.

  Music, dancing and writing still feature prominently in Betty’s life, as do her three daughters and four grandchildren. It hasn’t been easy at times but the resilience she developed in childhood has enabled her to make the most of even the toughest situations. She says she’s grateful to everyone at Vita House for providing an outlet in her time of need and her many certificates are evidence of her time well spent behind the “warm red door”.

 

Marian’s getting to the root of mental illness

 

Vita House Director of Services Marian Keigher believes that counselling and psychotherapy has developed and changed for the better.

 

  “If you go back to Sigmund Freud and all those guys, it’s so different today. Back then a therapist or a psychiatrist might have been trying to ‘cure’ you and telling you what you needed to do to change and to be different. They were the experts and you were the one who was listening for the expert advice.

  “It moved from that into a lot of cognitive therapy, which still exists. Cognitive Therapy would be the reasoning and rationale, and again that’s relevant, but today it’s moving much more into the awareness of emotions,” she said.

  Marian explained the reason for this move was increased scientific knowledge around the workings of the brain.

  “There’s a much better understanding of our brain from MRIs and other tests. The oldest part of our brain is our reptilian brain, and that tells us when we’re hungry, that tells us we need to use the bathroom, it tells us we need to breathe, etc. All living creatures have the reptilian brain.

  “But as I say to people: if you had a reptile would you be putting him on your knee and petting him? You wouldn’t, because this same reptile doesn’t have the next part of the brain that developed which involves core emotions. Mammals all have core emotions, which basically mean being able to connect. To survive and thrive, mammals need to be able to connect”.

  While our sophisticated brains set us apart from other species, they can also cause us problems.

  “Human beings have very sophisticated frontal lobes which allow us to imagine, plan and do a lot of other stuff which other mammals can’t do. This is great, but the front part of the brain can actually trip us up.

  “Let’s use our emotion of fear as an example: ‘I’m afraid. I heard a noise. Was that a lion outside? Should I run? My body reacts as if it is a threat because I feel the fear. But now I also have an imagination so every time I hear this noise my body reacts as if it is a real fear, which it isn’t because I’ve just imagined it.

  “So a lot of the time when I feel fear it’s maybe because the front part of my brain has imagined it and it’s not a real fear. Therefore I need to look at what it is that’s actually making me afraid.

  “Psychotherapy has moved with the understanding of the brain. Anxiety is like a fear. In a way that ‘this is my bodyguard’ but sometimes the bodyguard is minding us too well. We need to look at what’s under the anxiety.

  “‘I’m anxious because I don’t know whether I know how to behave in a certain social situation’, for example. So why is my ‘bodyguard’ telling me I shouldn’t be in that social situation? It’s because I fear that I may be rejected or I might feel that I don’t belong.

  “So it goes back to the basic feeling of needing to be connected but my bodyguard has done such a good job on it now that I now don’t even want to go out the front door!”

  So how can we prevent our fears and anxieties from holding us back?

  “What I need to look at is that I’m afraid of being rejected, so I need to look at what it is about me? Can I accept that this is who I am and that I’m acceptable in this company?  

  “Social media is pushing it the other way – do I fit in in an external way? Counselling and psychotherapy helps me look much more internally. It’s like the mafia; it’s an inside job! (Laughs). You really have to work inside and get underneath the anxiety,” said Marian.

  Fortunately, the newly-acquired knowledge of how the brain works and the movement of modern psychology towards dealing with the emotion and feeling behind the issues means the prognosis is good for those suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental illness.

  “Counselling and psychotherapy is very modernly connected to what we know about the workings of the brain and the whole idea that our brain can change.

  “With neuroplasticity, our brains are like plastic and they can change, they can rewire. The expression is ‘If I can re-fire, I can rewire’. We can shape our brains as adults and counselling and psychotherapy helps us look at the way our brains are connected to fear of other issues. We can then rewire and connect them to other, more positive things or whatever we fire ourselves up to wanting to connect to”.

 

It’s Family Day at Roscommon Races on Monday!

 

The 2018 racing season in Roscommon is proving very successful, thanks to the loyal support of race-goers and sponsors.

  Racing resumes on Monday, the 20th of August, with the first of seven races due off at 5.20 pm.

  It’s Londis Family Day with lots of free entertainment for the children, such as the Pirate Boat Train. All kids love a bouncy castle, there’s also a Rock and Roll Gladiator, face-painting and a Disco Dome. As usual, children under the age of sixteen are free.

  There is a special admission price for students (€5). Student ID cards must be produced.
  The Most Stylish Hat Competition (open to both male and female) has a first prize of €400, with two runner-up prizes of €100 each.
  The Race committee receives great support from the local business community. Sponsors next week include Murray Ambulance, Eurona Brisknet, Londis in Roscommon, Pyramid Bookmakers, The Cleary family, Forans Equine and the EBF. Gerry Gill Motors kindly sponsors the prize for the hard-working grooms, for the best turned out horse in each race.

  There will be music in the main bar after the second last race (with Derek Campbell). 

  There’s a special voucher offer for €35 which includes admission, race card, two-course meal and a €10 betting voucher. Also available is a discount for group bookings.
  Check out Roscommon Racecourse on Facebook or visit www.roscommonracecourse.ie for updates. 

Vita House, Roscommon to host four-day Festival of Families

 

 

Official 25th anniversary celebration is on Friday

 

 

The Festival of Families takes place at Vita House Family Services Centre from Wednesday, August 22nd to Saturday, August 25th. A number of events will take place throughout the four days culminating in a Family Fun Day at the Community Sports Park in Lisnamult on Saturday 25th.

Wednesday, August 22nd

Vita House Family Services Centre located on Abbey Street in Roscommon town will host an Open Day from 1 pm to 4 pm. Light refreshments will be provided and all are welcome. At 4 pm there will be a special screening of ‘Resilience – The biology of stress and the science of hope’.

Thursday, August 23rd

On Thursday, Vita House presents ‘Talks to make you think’, a series of talks on the theme of ‘family’ from 6 pm to 9 pm. There will be ten different speakers in what will be a ‘Ted Talks’ format and booking is essential (on 090-6625898).

Friday, August 24th

Friday is the official 25th anniversary celebration at Vita House and all current and former staff members and volunteers are cordially invited to attend (from 10 am).

  There will be a number of speeches on the day from stakeholders including Tusla, HSE and current board members. The afternoon will feature conversation with some service users.

Saturday, August 25th

Saturday is Family Fun Day with a whole host of events taking place at the Community Sports Park in Lisnamult from 12 noon to 5 pm.

  Children of all ages are welcome for magic shows, face-painting, Zumba, games and activities. Food and treats will be available to buy on the day. Come along and join the fun!

 

Vita House: A community champion

 

 

PAUL HEALY recalls the ‘humble beginnings’ of the new facility ‘up the road’…

 

There was no major fanfare…just a sense of quiet satisfaction, of understandable and understated pride, of nervous hope for what might be.

  I was there that day, a spectator (well, working as a journalist). No big travelling expenses(!) that day – the job was only three or four doors up the street.

  Then, as now, we were in a newspaper office in Abbey Street. But it was the Roscommon Champion in those days. And, those few doors up the street from us, the official opening of Vita House was taking place on that day in 1993.

  In the Champion newsroom, we knew little enough about the new service. I went along, curious…and, after all, it wasn’t every day that the Bishop was in town.

  The Bishop in those days was Dr. Dominic Conway, a learned man who had a quite serious demeanour. It was a low-key affair. “Humble beginnings”, as others have said of Vita House. 

  As time went by, I became more aware of that new service based a few doors ‘up the road’. I soon realised that we were not the only Champion in Abbey Street. Vita House had its own champion, in Sr. Mary Lee. Whoever had made her Director of Services had chosen well!

  It took only a short while for the new centre to make an impact. Sr. Mary got down to business very quickly, assisted by a great team and lots of goodwill from the wider community.

  At the Champion, we had a very good relationship with Sr. Mary in the years that followed. I saw at close quarters how diligent, creative and professional she was. Her leadership was inspirational; Vita House quickly became central to community life in Roscommon. Sr. Mary had no fear of ambitious goals. She thrived on the challenge of developing services at Vita House, of fulfilling its destiny, of realising potential where others might not even have seen it.

  Great credit must also go that modest and humble man, Monsignor Charles Travers. It was Monsignor Travers who had the initial vision for this new centre. He wanted to create a place where the challenges facing families could be addressed. Even as far back as 1993, it was obvious that Irish society was changing, that things weren’t staying the same. Monsignor Travers recognised this. Changing times, changing needs. Vita House would provide vital support, in a range of ways, for people who needed it.

  Services at Vita House broadened as the years went by. Hard work from staff and volunteers alike. Raising finance must have been an ongoing challenge. I know that the people of Roscommon were not found wanting when it came to supporting fundraising projects.

  The 25 years have passed quickly. Over that period, numerous people have helped to continue the Vita House success story, whether as managers, staff, volunteers (including those who have served on the board) or members of the public who have often provided financial support. They can all take a bow this week.

  Ultimately, Vita House is there for the people, for service-users. And you only have to read some of the  interviews in this publication, or the testimonials of service-users, to see just how big a difference Vita House can make in a person’s life. These interviews/testimonials are deeply moving and inspiring.

  A few years ago, Sr. Mary was succeeded as Director of Services by Marian Keigher. Marian is overseeing the continued growth of the centre with flair, energy and passion.

  Vita House is long established as a landmark in our street, our town…our community. The premises was refurbished to ‘state-of-the-art’ level in 2013. It’s come a long way since that low-key opening in 1993. Congratulations to all involved ‘up the road’ over the past 25 years, and here’s to the next 25!

 

 

I knew what my dad was saying…‘go and find your parents’

 

 

Given up for adoption by her unmarried mother in 1957, MARY was determined to try and seek our her birth parents…

 

I was born in a nursing home in County Longford in May 1957. My mother was only nineteen and unmarried at the time, which was unacceptable in those days. She had hidden her pregnancy for months, and after she had given birth she only got to see me for an hour before I was taken away. She left the nursing home, and in her mind she would never see me again. She felt ashamed and completely alone. She was expected to keep her secret and forget her little baby girl ever existed.

 

  I was sent to live in an orphanage for five months before I was adopted. I was twelve-years-old when my dad brought me back to the orphanage and said: “You came from here”. Not understanding what he meant, I asked a priest during a retreat at school. The priest used the word ‘adoption’ and told me I must have been adopted. He was very kind and said: “Don’t worry that your mum and dad are not your birth parents. All children were God’s children and no child is any different to anyone else”. I felt better after leaving him and never forgot his words.

  I have tried not to let my adoption define me or make me feel I was any different to anyone else. Most adopted people wonder what their birth parents are like. You imagine and dream about them and wonder if you have ever met them. You also wonder why they gave you up and whether they were in love. Darker thoughts crossed my mind too…like was my mother raped? Did they ever think of you like you think of them? I loved horses, so I wondered whether I got my love of horses from them. The questions are endless and each year the list of questions gets longer but there are no answers. There is also the added worry of possible health issues that may exist in your biological family.

  During those years adoption was surrounded by secrecy and silence. Some people called me ‘illegitimate’, which was hurtful. My adopted parents never spoke about it in order to protect me and to make me feel that I was their daughter.

  When I was 18-years-old, however, I called the orphanage to find out if my mother had ever made contact. There was no information available, but my adopted parents were upset that I had tried to find my birth parents. I was caught between upsetting my parents that had given me a home, and my need to find out about myself and who I was. I just wanted answers, but it wasn’t until 2007 that people were allowed to search for their parents under the supervision of the Health Board.

  Then, when I was 56, my dad who I was taking care of during the early stages of Alzheimer’s brought in a case and said “This is for you, mind it”. Inside, there were letters from the orphanage along with my birth certificate. I knew he was really saying: “Go and find out about your parents, I know you need to”.

  I contacted the Health Board and within a year they found my birth mother, but also discovered that my biological father had died many years before. My mother was in America. There was a lot of red tape. I had to write a letter and send photos; I didn’t get to talk to her properly for almost six months. A phone call had been arranged and ironically it took place two days after my adopted father’s funeral on Good Friday.  

  That first call was surreal; I was both excited and sad – it was an emotional rollercoaster. She told me that my biological father was dead, just two days after I had buried my dad. I had been brought up by my foster parents in Dublin but went to live in Longford after I got married. I couldn’t believe it then when she told me that both my birth parents were from Co. Longford.

  My birth mother was sent to America a few months after I was born so she too lost her parents and her brother, which was upsetting for her. Her dad was never told about my existence and neither was my birth father. My mother also lost a child after a very long illness; her life had not been easy. However, she never forgot about me and was so happy I had found her. Leaving me in that orphanage had in many ways defined her life. I don’t think you can ever forget your child.

  After a few months she invited me to America. I brought my three daughters with me. Before I left, my counsellor was concerned because it wasn’t normal procedure for your first meeting; usually you would meet for just an hour initially. Travelling to America and staying in her house for ten days was unusual, to say the least.

  My counsellor asked me what would happen if my mother wasn’t there to meet me at the airport. She also told me it would be hard to leave her, but I just had to go. I had only been on a plane once before, when travelling to England, but now I had to go across the Atlantic Ocean, hoping that my mother would be at the airport to meet me and that we’d all get along.

  I arrived in America and was preparing myself to meet her when suddenly there she was! It was amazing how much like my eldest daughter she was. It took her a few days to get over the shock of seeing me but we got on so well; we may have been strangers, but it felt like we had known each other forever.

  It was hard for her to believe that I was the baby she had left all those years ago and that she had a family she had never known. While she met some of her grandchildren during the trip, there was another grandson back in Ireland who had two children – she was a great-grandmother!

  She kept saying how sorry she was for leaving me and we cried a lot. She had so much guilt, but for me, it was just so great to have found her. I understood her pain; we were so alike in the way we thought. I had never quite understood genetics before that day. I had never had anyone to compare myself to. She was my mother and it was like I belonged for the first time in my life.

  My children are the most important people in my life so when I say that I could hardly say goodbye to my mother at the airport, it should give an indication as to the depth of emotion I felt.

  When I was born, my mother had asked if I could be called Grainne, which never happened. It was sad because she remembered her daughter ‘Grainne’ for all those years but now she had found Mary. When she called me Mary you could see her struggling, it was like I was not the child she remembered. Four years have passed since that first meeting and it’s only recently that she has become more comfortable calling me Mary. A funny thing: She told us that she used to sing a song for years with the words ‘Down the road I look and there runs Mary’ – the power of the unconscious mind! Because of the distance we can never have the relationship I would love, but it’s great to have her in my life. We talk every day and I visit her often.

  Adoption can be difficult for everyone involved. My mother is thankful that I don’t blame her for leaving me all those years ago. Due to the revelations in this country in recent years, I understand that it was Irish society that allowed this to happen and that pregnant girls like my mother were just victims.

  I have told her that she gave me life and I have given life to four beautiful children and three grandchildren. If it wasn’t for her we would not exist and now she had a bigger family to love and be loved by.

  My mother has shed many tears and had kept her secret for over 30 years. She wasn’t allowed talk about me to anyone. It’s so special that she got to meet me and that we became a family again. It’s the best feeling in the world and the sense of belonging is so important for all of us. don’t think you can ever forget your child.

  

An adventure which worked out well…thanks be to God we were welcomed by the Irish people

 

 

With Brazil going through a deep recession, Valeria Maria, her husband Umberto Assis and their family pursued a better life…in Ireland. This is their story of the big move to Roscommon...(also published in Portuguese alongside)

My family and I came to live in Ireland in 2002. My husband had come four months earlier in order to organise things. I followed after with our two sons. We left everything behind – family, friends, profession – to try and make a better life for ourselves and our children and also to help both our families in Brazil.

 

  Leaving Brazil was a very difficult decision, but it was necessary as the economy was going through a period of deep recession, as it is again at this time. Many do not understand what motivates people to emigrate but, in our case, it was the opportunity to have a better life that motivated us to break the shackles and set out on an adventure to a country which was very far away and foreign to us.

  My husband (Umberto Assis) arrived here in August 2002. He went first to Gort where a friend of his who had met him at the airport was living. This friend was the precursor of our story. From Gort, my husband came to work in Lambert Tractors, Donamon, Roscommon (where he is still working). These were very difficult days for him in a foreign country, a different culture and, most especially, because of the difficulties in communication. Owing to the fact that he did not speak the language he had many days of sadness and loneliness, and it was at this time that he suggested that I come to live here.

  I did not hesitate as it was always my objective to have a united family. And God provided everything. In December of 2002, myself and my sons, Pedro Assis (who was 6 at the time) and Kaio Assis (who was 5) arrived in Ireland in the middle of winter. Everything was different for us, every single detail and, to this day, I have stored it all in my memory. On arrival, we stayed in an apartment with some Brazilian friends. Everything was improvised but we were very happy. The fear of not being allowed to enter the country or being deported had passed, and now was the time to thank God and begin to confront all the challenges which would come our way.

  So, we faced all the obstacles with courage, determination and hard work and with the certainty that what we were doing was right. We had some very difficult moments but we always relied on the support of good Brazilians who were already here. Also, we had many Irish friends who helped us rent a house, register with the Gardai in the local immigration office, enrol the children in school, etc. These were our first steps and, by degrees, we were getting organised and adapting to a new culture. Thanks be to God we were very warmly welcomed by the Irish community.

  Always working hard, our sons grew up and developed and, in 2009, our daughter, Anna Victoria Assis (8 years) was born in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. Today, we are all naturalised Irish citizens. We visit our families in Brazil every year and that way we lessen our loneliness and that of the people we left behind. For us, living in another country was an adventure which worked out well. We grew as human beings; we surmounted many obstacles; we integrated in a different culture; we became citizens of the world. We are very happy here and grateful for all that Ireland has contributed to our lives.

 

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u e minha familia viemos viver na Irlanda em 2002. Meio esposo veio 4 meses antes para poder organizar as coisas. Depois eu e meus 2 filhos viemos. Deixamos tudo para traz, familiares, amigos, profissao, para tentar uma vida melhor para nossos filhos, e poder ajudar nossos familiares no Brasil.

  Deixar o Brasil foi uma decisao dificil, mais necessaria, a economia passava por um periodo de rescecao, igual ao momento atual. Muitos nao entendem o que motiva as pessoas imigrarem. Sao tantas questoes mas, em nosso caso, ter uma oportunidade de uma vida melhor foi o que nos motivou a quebrar os grilhoes e nos aventurar em um pais distante e desconhecido por nos.

  Meu esposo (Umberto Assis) desembarcou aqui em Agosto de 2002 e foi primeiramente para Gort, onde o amigo que o havia buscado no aeroporto morava. E esse amigo foi o precursor de nossa historia. De Gort meu esposo veio trabalhar em uma oficina mecanica (Lambert Tractors) em Donamon, Co. Roscommon onde ele trabalha ate hoje. Foram dias dificeis para ele estar em um pais desconhecido, outra cultura e principalmente a grande dificuldade em se comunicar. Devido nao saber falar o idioma foi nesses dias de saudade e solidao que ele me propos a vir morar aqui.

  E eu nao hesitei, pois meu objetivo sempre foi ter uma familia unida. E Deus providenciou tudo. Em Dezembro de 2002, eu e meus filhos, Pedro Assis, na epoca com 6 anos e Kaio Assis, com 5 anos chegamos em pleno inverno. Foi tudo novo para nos, cada detalhe ate hoje esta guardado na minha memoria. Ao chegar ficamos no apartamento de uns amigos, tudo improvisado, mas estavamos felizes. O medo de nao conseguir entrar no pais (Deportacao) havia passado, agora era hora de agradecer a Deus e comecar a enfrentar os desafios que viriam.

  E foi assim que encaramos os desafios com coragem, determinacao e muito trabalho e com a certeza de que tudo iria dar certo. Tivemos momentos muito dificeis, mas sempre contamos com o apoio de bons Brasileiros que aqui ja viviam e tambem amigos Irlandeses. Eles nos ajudaram a alugar casa, nos registrar na Garda, matricular as criancas na escola. Foram assim nossos primeiros passos e fomos nos organizando e nos adaptando a nova cultura. Gracas a Deus fomos muito bem acolhidos pela comunidade Irlandesa.

  Sempre trabalhando muito, nossos filhos foram crescendo e, em 2009, nasceu nossa filha Anna Victoria Assis (8 anos) em Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. Hoje todos nos temos a Cidadania Irlandesa. Anualmente, visitamos nossos familiares no Brasil e assim nos podemos amenizar a saudade de todos que la ficaram.

  Viver em outro pais para nos foi uma aventura que deu certo. Crescemos muito como seres humanos, vencemos obstaculos, nos integramos a outra cultura, nos tornamos cidadoes do mundo. Somos felizes e gratos em tudo que a Irlanda contribui em nossas vidas.

– Valeria Maria Da Silva Assis

 

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