Tipperary teacher Siobhán Ryan from St. Anne’s Secondary school has just returned from Zambia thanks to Folens Overseas Teaching Fund.
Ten Irish teachers, selected from hundreds of entries, benefited from the fund of €10,000 to enable charitable work abroad and Siobhán travelled to Zambia to share her skills, knowledge and expertise through her chosen charity the Cheshire Home Orphanage with Kaoma Community School and Mongu Rehabilitation Centre.
“I wanted to do voluntary work and my aunt, Sister Marguerite Ryan, put me in touch with Sister Mary Moloney from Holycross. I first went to the Cheshire Home Orphanage in Zambia in 2012 and this was my third visit,” said Siobhán. “It is quite overwhelming at first to see children with physical and mental disabilities but what strikes you is that none of the children complain. They are just eager to have fun and be as normal as they can be. One child just blew me away. He only had one hand and no legs but wanted to play football because of the World Cup. That child didn’t feel there was blood dripping out of his stumps… all he knew was that he just wanted to play.”
The Cheshire Home Orphanage opened in 1993 by the Presentation Sisters in response to the vast numbers of people who had died as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the resulting children left orphaned. The Home cares for approximately 130 children at any one time and has since been expanded to meet the educational needs of the children with the Kaoma Community School and the needs of children with disabilities with the Mongu Rehabilitation Centre.
“The amount of work that the Irish nuns do out there is phenomenal. Sr. Cathy Crawford from Laois along with St. Stella Bourke from Galbally runs the Cheshire Home in Mongu and they are massive community leaders. The children in the Mongu Rehabilitation Centre are so special because the kids have been found in remote places and there’s very little value with kids with disability. At the centre, they are assessed for prosthesitics and voluntary surgeons are flown in 3 times a years. Many children are born with clubfeet, without limbs and cerebral malaria due to malnutrition.”
Suzy O’Keefe, Marketing Manager at Folens, said, “Siobhán and the other winning applicants showed an extraordinary commitment to the teaching profession and a desire to see a high standard of education afforded to all children across the globe – a vision we are committed to at Folens. Teachers are the lifeblood of our organisation and this initiative allowed us to give something back by supporting them to continue their work in schools in developing countries.”
“When you get home you realize the luxury of water, electricity and education. In Zambia the children walk miles to school and bring canisters with them to bring water home. There can be up to 80 in a class; the girls see education as a way out of the poverty trap.”
Siobhán wishes to thank the people in Tipperary and everyone connected to St Anne’s secondary school who gave donations to the orphanage Cheshire Home Orphanage and Cheshire Home Rehabilitation centre. “The value is much more than we can ever imagine here,” added Siobhán.