After months of hard work and fundraising, the students of Portlaoise College are finally on their way to Gambia to help school children less fortunate than themselves.
Fourteen students and four staff members will be travelling to the country in west Africa on February 5 for one week.
A 20ft container filled with books, educational supplies, sports equipment, clothes and medical supplies left the college last week, and is due to arrive on the same day as the group.
This will be donated to four different schools, including a primary and secondary school previously visited by Portlaoise College students in 2012.
Mr Keith McClearn is a teacher at the college, and one of the organisers of the trip.
“Once we’re out there we will be unpacking and distributing the items in the container. This includes 70 boxes of books and toys, 80 bags of clothes and shoes, twelve bikes and sports equipment.
“It’s a very remote, rural area of Gambia and the children have to walk to school everyday, By the time they get home it is dark and they are at risk of snake bites. They desperately need bikes” he said.
Leah Murphy is one of the students travelling to Gambia.
“I’m looking forward to the experience. It will be interesting to see how they live, and compare it to our lives in Ireland” she said.
Dillon Gowing is another student on the trip.
“We’ve practiced some simple games, such as Hot Potato and Duck Duck Goose, and we will teach them to the children out there” he said.
The trip to Gambia cost approximately €20,000.
“We raised €6,500 in one weekend alone before Christmas. We had a bake sale and Santa’s Grotto in Portlaoise Parish Centre, we were carol singing in Tesco, and one of the teachers, Mr McEvoy, ran a half marathon.
“All the parents, relations, friends and staff have been very supportive” said Mr McClearn.