The group of locals taking part in the trip to Tanzania.

Volunteers depart for Tanzania: ‘We’re going to make a change’

Volunteers from Mullingar embarked on a trip to Tanzania last week, hoping to “make a change” in the lives of those in need. The 16-strong group left on Sunday 30 June to spend two and a half weeks in the village of Mto Wa Mbu, providing essentials like food, clothes, shelter, and more.

The trip was organised by Tanzanian Heavenly Homes, a non-profit founded by photographer John McCauley, to continue the work they started there in 2012.So far, they have constructed a complex that houses 12 elders from the community and a 2.4-hectare working farm to supply fresh produce.

Volunteers have been hard at work in preparation for the trip in recent months, organising fundraisers ranging from quizzes to workouts to support their efforts.

Before departing for the trip, 20-year-old Olivia Rossi shared her excitement about improving people’s lives. “We’re going to help, make a change, do as much as we can over there,” she said.

“We’re going to support people in any way we can by providing food, essential needs, mattresses, and everything that we take for granted here. We want to support them in their daily lives, help them set up a foundation for a regular way of living with a home, a bed, and a bathroom.”

Volunteer Alannah Norris (20) said she was excited but unsure of what to expect. “I think you can only do so much preparation for something like this,” she said. “We read about it, John tells us about it, but you don’t really know until you go over there and actually experience it. But yeah, we’re really looking forward to it and hopefully we can handle the weather!”

Irene Fallon, who was on last year’s trip, said the bags were packed and full of supplies. “We’ve fundraised all year, we bring in loads of clothes, provisions, medicines,” she said. “We’re taking all that with us and we’re taking money as well to actually buy stuff over there.”So, we’ll be delivering food, probably painting, working on the land, all of that. A lot of work has gone into it and hopefully there will be a lot of work to be done when we’re over there for a couple of weeks.”

Ms Fallon said poverty is rampant in Mto Wa Mbu. “The terrain is pretty bad, it’s very poor – shanty town vibes,” she said. “But the people are just amazing, the kids are amazing, they’re just so generous, they’re so happy to see us coming.

“We’re really just coming over to be ambassadors for Ireland and to show what we can do, that we care about them, and that we’re interested in helping them.”

Irene will be joined in Tanzania by her daughter Sarah this year, who said she was looking forward to getting stuck in. “We’re going to be feeding people, planning to plant farms and fruit trees so that they’ll be able to live sustainably,” she said.”We will decide a lot of the individual roles when we get out there and the jobs; it all depends on what they’re in need of when we get there.

“I have wanted to go on this trip for a while; my sisters and family have all gone, and it was a great experience for them. So, we just think it will be a great opportunity to go and help out.”Also jetting off to Tanzania was Westmeath senior hurler Conor Shaw, who hopes to make a difference in the lives of villagers. “We don’t know 100 per cent what to expect yet, but we’re going over to help the elders and play with the kids in the orphanage and stuff like that,” he said.”It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Mr Shaw, who will be joined by his girlfriend Aoife Doherty, a Raharney and Westmeath camogie player, said the pair organised fundraisers to finance their charitable efforts. “I did fitness classes down in Brownstown around Christmas, I run my own business there, and Aoife did an art night,” he said.

“A few different people also gave us generous donations as well along the way and between us we raised well over €5,000.”