Tanzania volunteers: Back row: Daisy Geoghegan, teacher Sile O'Grady, Eimear Quilty, Emily Coughlan. Front: Coaimhe Hennebry, Liadhain O'Shea, Laura Power
Six students from Carrick-on-Suir's Scoil Mhuire Secondary School are in Tanzania this week renovating a primary school.
Seventeen year-olds Laura Power, Daisy Geoghegan, Liadhain O'Shea and Emily Coughlan from Carrickbeg; Coaimhe Hennebry, (18), from Clondonnell, Rathgormack and Eimear Quilty, (17) from Mooncoin flew out to the East African country on Sunday.
They are spending ten days with the people of the Maasai tribe in the Arusha region of Tanzania not far from the famous Mt. Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park. As well as helping to renovate a rural primary school, the students, who have just completed fifth year, will work with the school's students.
Accompanying the adventurous and civic-minded group on their volunteering trip are Scoil Mhuire's guidance counsellor Sile O'Grady and Daisy Geoghegan's mother Mary Connolly.
The students left for Tanzania just two days after completing their fifth year at Scoil Mhuire, Greenhill. The trip is being organised through Projects Abroad, an organisation that arranges international volunteering work and internships for students taking a break from their studies.
The students have been planning and fundraising for the expedition since last autumn. Laura Power was the instigator. She said: "I have always wanted to go volunteering abroad. Ms O'Grady brought us on a school trip to a careers day at the beginning of the year and there was a lady from the Hope Foundation taking names (of volunteers). It started from there."
After talking to Ms O'Grady about volunteering abroad, they decided to investigate the different volunteering options and a call out was made for applications from other fifth year students interested in taking part.
Like Laura, Daisy said she has always wanted to do volunteering abroad. "I loved doing the shoe box appeal every year and I always wanted to go to the places where the shoe boxes were sent," she said referring to the Christmas boxes of gifts sent by Irish children to children in developing countries. She was also encouraged by the positive experience her mother, who is a nurse, had doing volunteer work in Zambia for a year.
Caoimhe and Eimear were likewise encouraged by the experience of relatives who spent time abroad volunteering. "Everyone who does it says it's a really life changing experience," said Caoimhe. "My cousin loved it and she inspired me to do it."
Eimear said her sister told her the six weeks she spent in Thailand really changed her perspective on life. "When this came up I thought it was a great opportunity."
Emily, meanwhile, has a cousin from Ghana, who has encouraged her to visit Africa, while Liadhain was drawn to the trip because she believed it would be a great and different experience.
The group are staying with a Tanzanian family in Arusha city, which is located in north eastern Tanzania and is a gateway to the country's popular safari destinations in and Africa's highest peak Mt. Kilimanjaro, located about 100kms away.
The primary school they are helping to renovate is in a rural area and they are looking forward to working with the students. Assisting them with improving their English and playing games are among the activities they are doing with the children, who are all members of the Maasai Tribe.
Ms O'Grady said English was recently removed as one of Tanzania's languages. Schools now find it difficult to get English language books so the school they are going to is looking forward to receiving English books and the opportunity for its students to learn English from the Irish visitors.
In preparation for their trip, the Scoil Mhuire students had to raise about €2,800 each. Their Carrick to Tanzania fundraising campaign collected an impressive €24,000.
Tea parties in Scoil Mhuire, bake sales, a pub table quiz, a concert, a silver fork supper, barbecue and supermarket bag packing are among the wide variety of fundraising events they organised over the past few months.
The majority of the money is going to the Tanzanian school the students are helping to renovate and they have brought out a lot of sports, arts & crafts equipment, books, stationery and other school equipment to the Tanzanian school.
Ms O'Grady said they have also brought with them 96 care packages for the Tanzanian students donated by the students of her daughter Orlaith's school, St John de Baptist Primary School in Cashel. The care packages were organised by St John de Baptist's 3rd and 4th class students taught by Ms Bernie Kennedy. Orlaith and her classmates also did a project on Tanzania.
The Scoil Mhuire students said they received amazing support from their friends, family, school and communities in their fundraising efforts and they wished to thank them. They paid tribute to Scoil Mhuire principal Brendan O'Dwyer who allowed them to fundraise in the school and local businesses for their sponsorship and donations.