06 Oct 2022

Laois town back on a mission to fundraise for African orphanage

Fr Noel Dunphy, Mary Tracy, Sheelagh Coyle, and Kay Kilroy of Mission Alive making a presentation to Sr Paula, Director of the orphanage in Lusaka.

Fr Noel Dunphy, Mary Tracy, Sheelagh Coyle, and Kay Kilroy making a presentation to Sr Paula.

A Laois town will revive its long running coffee morning and cake sale this month which helps to educate and feed vulnerable African schoolchildren.

The callout is being made in Mountmellick for donations of sweet confectionery and raffle prizes, for the popular annual Mission Alive cake sale and coffee morning held in aid of an orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia.

It will return once again after two years of cancellations forced by the pandemic, hosted by Fr Noel Dunphy in the Presbytery on Friday morning, July 15. 

Retired teacher Sheelagh Coyle is on the Mission Alive committee, which formed back in 2002 to support the orphanage's work.

"We are hoping people will donate confectionery and raffle prizes, and will come and have a chat and tea and coffee in Fr Noel's house," she said.

Over the past 20 years, the people of Mountmellick have donated well over €100,000 to educate and feed Lusakan children, many of whom are AIDS orphans raised by grandparents and relatives. 

Even the pandemic forcing the cancellation of all their fundraisers, including the coffee morning, table quiz and church gate collection, did not deter donors.

The committee, led by Mountmellick priest Fr Noel Dunphy, instead made a direct appeal to Mountmellick for donations, and people gave generously, with a cheque for €4,000 presented recently to the orphanage project director, Sr Paula, as pictured.

Ms Coyle explained why the money is so vital.

"Children in Zambia have to pay to go to school, and then buy uniforms and books. A lot of the money we raise is for uniforms and for food. Very many of the children are being raised by older siblings or grandparents. Their parents died from AIDs and they face ongoing poverty," she said.

As well as AIDS, Zambia in Central Africa has also recently been badly affected by climate change droughts and the Covid pandemic.

Sr Paula gave this troubling update to the Mountmellick group at the end of 2021.

"It has been a very difficult year for us as we had a lockdown from May until August. We got the Delta Variant of Covid 19 and it hit hard. We had hospitals not able to cope with the high number of patients, and a very high death rate. Vaccines arrived at this time and were rolled out quickly, which helped. We lost friends and neighbors as well as worried about my own family members who got Covid. Thank God they pulled through.

"We were busy educating the community on the importance of social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks and distributing food packages to the children especially the little ones on Anti Retroviral therapy and those with stunted growth. 

"We are deeply grateful for your support enabling children and some physically challenged to get an education and a chance in life. We will continue to remember you all in prayer," Sr Paula said.

There is hope of free education now, Sheelagh Coyle reports.

"There is a new president of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema. Sr Paula is very hopeful under his regime as he has promised free education," she said.

The Coffee Morning and Cake Sale will run from 10.30am until 12.30pm on Friday, July 15, at the Presbytery on Sarsfield Street (three doors down from St Joseph's Church).

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