Progress at Leixlip’s Zambian school twin

A group of students from Leixlip and other groups in the north Kildare town have raised funds and are continuing to given help to a Zambiam school, writes Newbridge resident and Colaiste Chiarain teacher, Tom Cash, who has visited the area in the past.

A group of students from Leixlip and other groups in the north Kildare town have raised funds and are continuing to given help to a Zambiam school, writes Newbridge resident and Colaiste Chiarain teacher, Tom Cash, who has visited the area in the past.

Colaiste Chiarain first became involved with the Global Educational Experience in 2009 when twelve of our students and four teachers travelled to Kalomo. Following on from this experience a number of staff members decided to set up a registered charity Action Zambia to support the work being undertaken by the Presentation Sisters in Kalomo.

In 2010 the charity organised a container that contained numerous items including a tractor and related farm machinery, 100 computers, hospital equipment and sewing and knitting machines. In 2011 twenty volunteers travelled out and set up an Information Centre and sewing room and provided training over a two week period.

Having had our last student visit in 2009 we decided to present the possibility of a trip to Transition and 5th year students.

Fifteen students expressed an interest in travelling and following a visit home by Kalomo based Sr. Teresa the students embarked on a fundraising project that would require each participant raise €2000 to cover the costs associated with the trip.

The group included five teachers, Barry McGhettigan and Maire Ni Scanail, who were there twice before, principal, Joe Sweeney, Nicola Charles and Claire Matthews.

In addition, Mr. Sweeney’s two sons, John and David, also volunteered as did students, Niamh Walsh, Shane McCormack, Matthew Foran, Adam Connolly, Gavin Walsh, Dan Gleeson, Aaron Doyle, Kieran Byrne, Aoife Masterson, Christina Jupe, Cristin O’Brien, Courtney Sleith, Eliana Jupe, Lisa Flattery and Roisin Monaghan.

In the present climate one would have serious reservation about embarking on such an onerous task but the diligence, dedication and ingenuity displayed our students was both amazing and refreshing to see as they set about their task.

With the fund raising well underway the students undertook training in the areas relevant to the trip ahead. Sr. Teresa was keen to have them work in the Information Centre and also wanted them to provide instruction in use of knitting machines that had been shipped in the container.

A call for assistance was answered by the Leixlip knitting group who were more than willing to train our students in the skills required. The group also found the time to produce and donate a selection of handmade dolls for distribution among the local children.

In early part of 2012 two teachers from Mwatta High School in Kalomo visited Colaiste Chiarain for an educational exchange. While here a partner agreement was entered into between the two schools with an emphasis on sharing educational and cultural ideals between the schools.

There is a marked contrast between schools in terms of resources and socio economic conditions. Mwatta High School has a large number of orphan girls who unfortunately sleep rough having no family to look over them.

During the visit we learned of a progressive plan to build a hostel within the grounds of the school to accommodate these girls.

Colaiste Chiarain left that a partnership should be more than simply an exchange of ideas and so decided to raise the funds to provide the roof for the hostel.

As in times past the business community in Leixlip was not found wanting.

Colaiste Chiarain would like to acknowledge the support of Leixlip & District Credit Union and Intel Ireland for their financial assistance.

The Board of Management of Colaiste Chiarain also made a generous donation on behalf of the school community to the project. On 24 June our group of fifteen students accompanied by five teachers from Colaiste Chiarain and two volunteers departed Dublin and arrived in Kalomo for a two week visit.

Over the next two weeks the Leixlip volunteers worked on the planned activities including the Home Based Care farm in constructing a piggery, computer classes in Excel and Powerpoint and the knitting group.

The students joined Sr.Teresa as she travelled to her daily medical clinic. A trained nurse, she provides daily care to HIV patients within the community.

The Colaiste Chiarain students also played soccer matches with some time for instruction in the finer points of Gaelic football thrown in for good measure.

The Leixlip group was honoured by the Board of Management of Mwatta School and were guests of honour at a reception where Principal, Joe Sweeney, unveiled the corner stone on the new hostel.

The trip concluded with a trip to Victoria Falls where the group enjoyed a well-deserved day of rest before returning home with a collection of memories that will last long into the future. Over the two weeks the conduct and work ethic of our students was truly remarkable. They are a credit to their families, our school, the community and most importantly to themselves. More information on the project can be accessed on our website as www.actionzambia.net

- Tom Cash