Caitlin Breen, Rusne Kairtye, Shauna and Catriona Carmichael from Portadown and Maghery will be arriving in the Korongoni parish near Kilimanjaro on June 5 with teacher Mary Fox, who is also mum to Shauna and Caitriona.
Friends since their first year at St John the Baptist’s College in Portadown, the girls now attending St Catherine’s College in Armagh and St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon and will be teaching at St Mary’s PS in Korongoni Parish. They will be travelling with Mary Fox who organised the entire trip after initial contact with Frank Diamond who has been associated with St Mary’s P.S. over the years.
Mary said: “He helped to develop it during his missionary years and introduced us to Fr. Wili Milangi who has been extremely helpful over the past seven months.”
Moshi is the nearest city, situated on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano which is the highest mountain in Africa. The name Moshi is said to refer to the smoke that emanates from the nearby mountain. The rural areas are extremely poor; roads are dusty, hilly with bumpy tracks. In Moshi, Christians and Muslims live peacefully side by side. St Mary’s P.S. is on the outskirts of Korongoni which has a population of almost 6,000 people.
The teachers aim at academic and spiritual/ethical upbringing of the children. Volunteers regularly visit the region; they get used to the regular daily occurrence of electricity supply cuts and so cold showers are the norm.
The St Mary’s School Project began in 2016; today there are over 500 children in both Kindergarten and Primary 1 to 5 - Numbers are growing each year resulting in a desperate need for the building of extra classrooms. Many schools are in need of basic teaching essentials. Numbers average 80+ per class with one teacher. Children are taught in both English and Swahili as it is believed that English can be a way out of poverty.
Mary revealed: “Our trip is self-funded though accommodation and food is covered in return for our assistance in the school. We will assist in teaching basic Maths and English and also Sport, Music and Art. We have been involved in fund raising with a few more events happening including a coffee morning at Parochial Centre at St John the Baptist from 11.30am on Sun. 21st May.”
There is a GoFundMe page – ‘to build extra classrooms for children in Tanzania’.
Some schools have contributed so far, St Patrick’s Academy Dungannon, St Mary’s P.S. Maghery plus Lismore Comprensive in Craigavon. They also collected used football tops and McKeevers Sports is contributing footballs plus Feadóg and McNeela Music are supplying tin whistles.
Mary said: “Our local contact is organising his friends to take us on a safari trip which will be adventurous! We will be able to contribute so much and create long lasting memories for the young children attending St Mary’s P.S. We will be able to share our skills and experiences with the young pupils attending St Mary’s P.S.”