About Billy and this memorial Fund
In February 1999 my only son Billy was drowned in Lake Malawi Central Africa. He was just twenty five years old. He had visited the small African country on several occasions and had grown to love the country and in particular the people and the village of Cape McClear. It was ironic that in his last email to me he referred to Cape McClear as ‘Paradise’. He lost his life in ‘Paradise’ less than forty eight hours later.
One year later in February 2000 I travelled to Cape McClear and brought a hand sculptured memorial stone to place at the lake shore in his memory I spent three months in Malawi and got to know the villagers and their way of life. The population of the village is 15,000 people who exist on subsistence farming and some fishing in the lake.
I returned to the village five times over two and a half years and in January of this year I went back again and spent almost four months living in the village and teaching in the primary school (I am a secondary teacher by profession) I needed to identify a project to undertake in the village in memory of Billy. An outbreak of cholera and continual deaths from malaria and simple childhood diseases very soon made me realise that a medical clinic in this area is not just necessary but it is essential. For these people medical treatment is almost non- existent. There is no clinic, doctor or nurse available and the nearest hospital care is a four hour difficult journey away. There is one doctor for 800,0000 people in the nearest hospital which is located in Mangochi which is the nearest large town. Having observed the situation over a period of months I decided to return home, raise money and build a clinic for the people of Cape McClear.
The Billy Riordan Memorial Trust was set up in Dingle Co Kerry. There was a lot of interest amongst the people of Dingle. Billy was well known and liked in the community and there were many offers of money and help .A local doctor and some nurses have expressed interest in working on a voluntary basis in Cape McClear for a six to twelve month period.
My target was $100,000. With this money it was possible to construct and equip a medical clinic and also have the first year’s supply of necessary medicines.
The Billy Riordan Memorial Trust was established with nine directors. There was a committee working in the village for the project and we were given land by the local chief on which to build the clinic.
Fund raising was done both locally and in other parts of the country.
The Billy Riordan Memorial Clinic opened in Cape Maclear, Malawi in 2004.It offered primary medical care. For the majority of the local population this was their first opportunity ever to access medical treatment for their illnesses. Opening at eight each morning, staffed by a doctor and three nurses the clinic was from the start a very busy place. Patients travelled for many miles to see the doctor and soon it became apparent that an in patient care facility was very necessary.
The clinic depended totally on fundraising activities to survive and building a further facility added considerably to the annual budget. With the generosity of many people both in Ireland and in the U.S. the in patient care facility opened in 2007.
Today the clinic permanent staff at the clinic includes Dr Jeannette Van Os from The Netherlands and Nurse Sheila Byrne Harte from Ireland. In addition volunteer doctors and nurses work at the clinic for periods of up to six months. The Trust employs more than 30 local people including patient care attendants, Laboratory assistants Translators, counsellors, administrative staff, kitchen, laundry, gardeners and security staff.
The clinic is open everyday including Saturday and Sunday. There is a 24 hour emergency service. Ambulances are available for transport to another facility if the clinic cannot provide the necessary treatment in Cape Maclear. Some surgical procedures are available. We do not have operating facilities.