A young Laois teacher who is volunteering in Mexico this summer, is asking for support from home to help a poverty stricken community.
Olivia Fennelly is from Pallas Little near Portlaoise, a daughter of Cathy and Mountmellick native Fran Fennelly.
She is hoping to gather enough money to reopen a library that once was the heart of a poor community, but shut down during Covid, never reopened, and is now in a dilapidated state.
It is in a poor community where drugs are rife she said.
"Barra de Potosí is a rural area in one of Mexico’s poorest states, and the influence of drug trafficking cartels is ever-present. Because of this, the library is essential to provide the area's children with a safe place and opportunities to partake in wholesome activities. This library project is unique to the area. There are few other activities for the children in the area, and the closest library is 40 minutes away, making it inaccessible to many.
""Since 1998, the children's library has been hugely influential. Many volunteers led fun and educational activities for the children of the village. As well as the functions of a standard library, the library in Barra became somewhat of a community centre. Children could participate in music, art and games, and it also served as a meeting place for the community.
"The library was closed in 2020 due to the global pandemic. The children in the area found it very hard to accept that the library was closed and continued to come to its door for three months with their notebooks. In the two years since closing, various serious maintenance issues have arisen, and the library and all the resources within it require a deep clean.
Olivia has spent the past few weeks cleaning the library herself.
"There is still a lot left to be done. When children saw the door open, many came in and eagerly asked when the library would be open again. Some children have even helped with some of the cleaning.
Last Thursday Olivia managed to reopen a part of the library, to an immediate welcome by the children, as her photo (below) sent to the Leinster Express shows.
"A number of adults in the community grew up attending the library and want to help continue the legacy of the library by volunteering as leaders themselves.
"For example, Nazareth is currently studying to become a vet in a local university. She has many fond memories from her time spent at the library and is keen to become a leader to ensure other children in the community get the same opportunities that she did.
"In the coming weeks, we are hoping to have the library open once again for the children of Barra, but in order to do so many issues need to be resolved first including fixing the well, repairing the roof and reconnecting electricity to the building. The library’s resources have dwindled greatly and its community is more in need than ever. Please donate if you can, every little counts!"
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