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Nurture Africa

Michael Heneghan began working with Bord na Móna almost two years ago. He works in the IT department and looks after IT testing working directly and indirectly with all IT business teams. If something has a technology element to it, the chances are it has passed through the hands of Michael or one of his team. His fundraising amounted to €1,756 with a large amount coming from colleagues here in Bord na Móna.

Nurture Africa is an Irish charity that nurtures the physical and emotional growth and well being of Ugandan children that are infected by or have been affected by HIV. They provide access to free quality healthcare, education and provide support and guidance in building sustainable livelihoods in a country that is in the top 10 list of global HIV adult prevalence rates. Considering the size of the country, the population, the remoteness of some villages and towns and therefore the levels of education and family planning understanding, I have no doubt that the figures are under estimated.

The charity rep visited Bord na Mona in February 2015 and I was one of about 10 employees that attended the presentation, but was only one of two that actually followed through. I joined a team of 40 volunteers from Ireland and the UK, including nurses, doctors, teachers, business consultants, and a variety of other professions that visited Nansana in Uganda in October 2015.

Having visited West Africa before, I was quite well prepared for the environmental and cultural challenges, but my expectations were very different to the reality. I associated East Africa with poverty, starvation, corruption, being an unsafe environment with political unrest. But people did not look hungry, although very basic, their houses were functional, the people were very friendly, you felt safe after dark and everybody looked very happy. Unfortunately, it’s the hidden problems that are the biggest, the ones that people do not discuss openly – The fact that HIV is increasing at an alarming rate and it is tearing families and communities apart.

The following describes some of the activities I was involved in:

Library Outreach: This included visiting local schools and spending time reading with the children, followed by playing games, including football, volleyball etc afterwards. It is amazing how happy you can make a child by playing with a ball for an hour.

Building: During heavy rain, the water washes through the medical centre. Our task was to dig one-metre deep and wide trenches and line them with stone and cement to guide the rainwater around the buildings. Although this was back breaking, it was very enjoyable and rewarding to see the finished product.

Basic First Aid Training: With the assistance of nurses, we carried out basic first aid training to large groups of children. I don’t know how much of it they absorbed, but it was an interesting experience demonstrating a seizure in front of 50 Ugandan school children.

Business Visits: This involved visiting the small businesses that the charity supported, ranging from small roadside shops selling fruit and vegetables, through to hardware and building supplies. The owners and families had been affected by HIV in one way or another, maybe they, their spouse or children have HIV, yet they still manage to find the courage, drive and determination to run a business to make a relatively small profit to feed their families and fund education for their children.

Home Visits: We visited families that have been directly affected by HIV and saw first-hand how it had torn the families apart. This was probably the most upsetting part, where despite their circumstances where mothers, fathers, siblings had been taken away from them by HIV, everybody, and more noticeably the children seemed very happy.

Although the experience is not for the faint hearted, I would thoroughly recommend that more people get involved. It is hard work, it is frustrating when you feel you cannot do more to help, but it was a very rewarding experience that you will not forget in a hurry.”