Galway is honouring our angel through the foundation, say Manuela’s parents

The parents of a Swiss Engish language student who was murdered in the city say people are honouring “their angel” by helping others through the foundation which was set up in her memory.

Arlette and Hans Peter Riedo, who lost their 17-year-old only child in October 2007 in what was described by the coroner at her inquest as “one of the worst tragedies to ever happen in Galway”, were praising Galway people for their continued support and generosity.

“The people of Galway and Ireland continue to hold our daughter and her memory close to their hearts,” said her mother, Arlette. “They could have decided to brush her memory under the carpet and move on with their lives but instead they honour our angel by helping others.”

The Manuela Riedo Foundation raised €33,000 for a number of agencies this year - Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Children and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service (West and Midwest Ireland ), Children at risk in Ireland (CARI ) and the Galway Rape Crisis Centre. Since 2010 it has raised €135,000.

These funds have been used for vital projects in the area of sexual assault awareness and prevention. Money was raised through gospel nights, a special coffee morning at McCambridge’s in Shop Street, the “Handbags and Gladrags” evening and from people taking part in the Connemara Marathon “Over the Hill” event.

Bernie O’Connell, the chairperson of the Manuela Riedo Foundation Ireland, said 2013 was a wonderful year for the organisation with people of all ages getting involved in the work of the foundation.

“Their huge involvement in fundraising activities has helped ensure that many suffering have been supported and that Manuela’s spirit and her memory have been honoured.”

He stated that the foundation’s challenge next year is to continue to build on those achievements.

“The MRFI invites others who wish to become involved or associated with our efforts to contact us. The continued support and connection with Manuela’s parents Hans Peter and Arlette has, as ever, inspired both the foundation, Irish supporters and Galwegians alike.”

Recent fundraising projects raised money for CARI’s child advocacy project and the Galway Rape Crisis Centre. The latter facility will use the finance to clear the backlog of people on its waiting list for counselling.

A spokesperson from the centre outlined that funding from the foundation is vital. “Repeated cuts to our funding and grant aid means we rely heavily on donations and fundraising to maintain our services. Currently we have 40 people on our waiting lists and many of these are waiting for almost a year to access our counselling services. We look forward to our ongoing collaboration with MRFI in the provision of a professional, confidential counselling and support service for survivors of sexual violence and abuse.”

The “Awareness and Education Programme” provided by Galway Rape Crisis Centre has been allocated specific funding by the foundation. The programme delivers sexual assault awareness workshops to young people in schools. So far, more than 6,000 teenagers have attended 200 of these events. Prior to funding from the foundation just two workshops were held.

A pilot project, by CARI, which provides therapy centres for children and families affected by child sexual abuse, together with the child and adolescent sexual assault treatment service in Galway, will train volunteers to accompany children and families attending the treatment service for a forensic medical examination. This is currently the only service of its kind in Ireland. It caters for children under 14 who have experienced sexual abuse and was set up by Dr Joanne Nelson, a consultant paediatrician and forensic examiner and clinical director of CASATS.

“We have to date received €9,000 from the fundraising efforts of the MRFI for this project,” said Majella Ryan, the acting national clinical director of CARI.

“It is vitally important to children and families who are dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse. This is a very difficult time for them and very frightening when they are suddenly plummeted into an alien world dealing with Gardai and other professionals. Our aim is to support them and help lessen their anxiety thorough support and demystifying the process for them.”

The MRFI has committed to providing further funding to both CARI and the GRCC for its projects for the first six months of 2014.

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