Address by Willi Kiefel on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of
student exchange, Tuam - Straubing in Tuam Library on 31/08/2009.
Tuam - Straubing Twinning
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*Poster 3* shows reports on the *offical twinning ceremonies* in Sept. 1991 first in Straubing and 2 weeks later in Tuam. The signing in Straubing occurred during the annual Straubing Beer Festival or Gaeubodenvolksfest, while the signing in Tuam coincided with the West Awake festival. We had a fantastic atmoshpere here in Tuam during those days crowned by incredibly good weather. *Poster 4* presents the *central idea* and foundation of the link between Tuam and Straubing that is the *student or youth exchange*. It started initially with Sr. Angela's visit in August 1984 and moved on to an annual exchange programme in March 1989 with another visit by Sr. Angela and 17 pupils form the 4 Straubing colleges: Anton-Bruckner-,Johannes-Thurmayr-, Ludwigs- and Ursulinen-gymnasium. The return visit by 32 Tuam pupils from the 4 colleges (CBS, Jarlath's, Mercy and Presentation) to Straubing took place in September 1989. Over the years this exhange has changed format. For example for a number of years Dunmore Community School took part; for the last few years Holy Rosary College in Mountbellew has joined. In fact this years' visit to Straubing in February consisted of 15 young people and 2 teachers from HRC Mountbellew and the return visit from Straubing with 34 pupils and 2 teachers is scheduled to come to Tuam/ Mountbellew over Halloween. Another observation is that during the years of the Celtic Tiger boom very few if any young people from Tuam went to Straubing. Therefore the exchange became unbalanced until very recently. I think it is a great achievement that we have been able to maintain this exchange activity on an annual basis for a consecutive period of 21 years.Looking forward we see it as a commitment to maintian and strengthen this link and hopoefully pass on the baton to the next generation. one of the girls from 1984, Andrea hausladen came with her 11 year old daughter Lisa. Hopefully she will be the first one of this next generation. Last Saturday I received a surprise phone call from Ruth O'Connor from Inverin near Galway. It turns out that Ruth is from the Straubing area. Her maiden name is Lindinger and she came to Tuam in 1994 when she took part in then exchange programme. Ruth came back a few years later to Galway University under the European Erasmus programme. There she met her future husband Morgan and -like myself came to live in Ireland. Another example of the strenghtening links of our communities. The exchange activities have been coordinated on the Tuam side by the Tuam-Straubing Twinning Committee and on the Straubing side by the Friends of Tuam together with the Office for cultural affairs of the City of Straubing. The Friends of Tuam in Straubing have been established in 1991 to support the link with Tuam on a private initiative basis. They are a non pofit making organisation with some 100 fee paying members. Sadly one of the founding members of the Friends of Tuam, Elfriede Pollety is very ill at present. Sr. Angela, please convey our best wishes to Elfriede. *Poster 5* gives a short overview of the history of the *Twinning Committee* and the *Friends of Tuam in Straubing*. The initial twinning committee established itself in 1988 consisting of Dr. Tony Calffey, Jarlath Canney ( secretary), Willi Kiefel, Niall McGinn and Martin McDonnell as its first Chairman. The members of the present Twinning Committee are: Pat O'Dwyer, Chairman, Willi Kiefel, Vice Chairman, John Fahey, Secretary and Kirstin Beyer, Liam Blake, Dr. Tony Claffey, Sally-Ann Flanagan, Martin McDonnell, Emily Reynolds and Frank Reynolds. Dr. Tony Claffey and myself have been committee members from the very beginning until now without any interruption. We are so to speak the „permanent members“.Besides the student exchange we also initiated a number of *cultural exchanges*. Such *visits from Straubing* are shown in *poster 6*.