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Volunteers from the University of Limerick Head to Uganda

UL Volunteers Uganda Project 09: Lisa Hickey, Amy English, Richard Hennessey,  Fergal O'Callaghan, Prof. Don Barry , President University of Limerick, Cian Conboy-Stephenson, St.,Nessan's Community College, Mai McGurck, Thomas O'Shaugnessey, Eddie Brennan.

Nine volunteers from the University of Limerick will visit Uganda this July to work to improve access to education for both Ugandan children and adults. This is the second year of the Uganda project at UL with last year's volunteers leaving a fully functioning secondary school behind and 2,500 trees planted in a region called Kabimbiri in Uganda. The school serves both the needs of the young students and the community.

Through extensive support from local businesses and individuals around Limerick city and throughout the wider Munster area, the 2009 team raised the necessary funds needed to run the project. The nine volunteers included UL students, staff and UL Alumni. All volunteers have backgrounds in construction, woodwork, architecture, teaching, business, computer skills and youth work. While in Uganda the team will meet with some key figures to discuss the future needs of the African people, and more importantly how the University of Limerick volunteers can help, this includes the Irish ambassador to Uganda, Mr. Kevin Kelly, as well the Ugandan Educational Minister, Ms. Geraldine Bitamazire. A few of the volunteers will also travel to Northern Uganda with the Ugandan Foreign Minster Henry Oryem, to look at work being currently done by Irish Aid.

Richard Hennessy, team leader for the project said 'The students and staff of the University are the driving force behind the project and without their commitment to continue the project it just would not work. They have been constantly enthusiastic about what they can achieve when they arrive in Uganda and also about fundraising, which is admirable considering the difficulties that they faced with fundraising this year'.

Lisa Hickey, another team leader for the project, who raised nearly €6,000 in her local area for the project, said that Irish people are still aware of the extreme poverty that exists in third world countries: 'I was blown away by the support from my local area and also from the department in which I work. I had expected to raise around €2 000, I always hoped that if someone was in a position to help then they would and I was right. You don't know how people have been affected by the economic downturn but when you see people giving what they can it really shows how important a project like this is'. 

Lisa further noted the importance of sending volunteers rather than money:' Sending volunteers from the university who have the skills and the desire to help African people learn how to build a school and maintain it, means much more than just sending money. The students in a University like UL have many skills that are invaluable to people in Uganda. These people are hungry for education and practical skills that will help them to improve their own circumstances and volunteering in a project like this will make a real difference to people living in the toughest circumstances'.

This July the team will be revisiting the school that they helped to build last year and they will be further improving its facilities through installing electricity to the classroom block, installing an Internet connection in the school, training teachers on computers and data projectors to improve the quality of teaching and learning, planting more trees and funding vaccinations for local villages. The team will also be assessing future projects in three different areas of Uganda for 2010 and 2011 and onwards. It is hoped that the volunteers will also use their skills and funding to provide basic tools and equipment for a local vocational school, as well as training the teachers in curriculum writing for the school.

UL Volunteers Uganda Project 09: Richard Hennessey, Cian Conboy-Stephenson, St., Nessan's Community College, Prof. Don Barry, President University of Limerick.

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