Fermanagh generosity overwhelms African volunteers

Mary Slevin, left, who is travelling to South Africa as part of Mellon Educate at a recent fundraising event with Mary Connolly    RMG04

Mary Slevin, left, who is travelling to South Africa as part of Mellon Educate at a recent fundraising event with Mary Connolly RMG04

A GROUP of big-hearted Fermanagh volunteers are getting ready for another trip to Africa to help ensure underprivileged children receive a good education. 
Every year around 250 volunteers from around the UK and Ireland, including an average of around 10 from Fermanagh, travel to some of South Africa’s po orest townships to take part in a “building blitz” and to help develop educational programmes for disadvantaged children.
Two of those who are currently fundraising for this year’s trip are first-timer Mary Slevin and Orla McGrade, who will be going for her fourth time. 
“Last year we achieved quite a significant amount in the week,” said Orla, who explained how they worked on a primary school, building classrooms, extensions and toilets.
Orla was tasked with painting a playground: “I’m not from that kind of building background, so it was daunting, but they really accommodate all levels and skills. Seeing it all come together is wonderful.”
She said the children were very appreciative, and last year treated them to singing and dancing to show their thanks. Orla said they were also brought to visit the shacks were they lived. 
“I don’t think anything could prepare you for it. You can’t imagine it until you see it, but when you do see it, it really gives you the impetus to go back and do it again.”
The Enniskillen woman said she was one of several Fermanagh volunteers from whom the trip is now a regular event in their calendar, with others such as Belleek man Barney O’Loughlin and Adrian McGovern travelling with the group year after year.
Like their fellow volunteers, both women have to do their own fundraising for the charity for the trip to Cape Town in November, and have been hard at work throughout the county. 
Orla, who has been doing a bucket collection since January, said: “The generosity of people in the county is phenomenal. People really get behind you. I’ve never done anything people haven’t supported. We would never be able to do it without the support of people at home.”
Mary, who has already held a guest tea that raised over £2,500 and a pub quiz at the Devenish Lounge that raised over £520, agreed and said the support she had received from people so far had been astonishing. 
“People’s generosity is overwhelming. It has proved to me there is so much goodness in the peopae of Fermanagh,” she said, explaining she needed to raise £3,750 for the trip.  “At first it seemed like a lot of money to raise, and I didn’t want to be asking people, but everyone has been so, so good.”
Both women said they wanted to sincerely thank all those who had donated or supported them in anyway in their fundraising efforts. 

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