Portmarnock students return from rewarding AIT trip to Lesotho

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett

Thirty-two students from Portmarnock Community School returned from Lesotho last week, following a two-week volunteer trip with Action Ireland Trust, the first since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The students were part of a fifty-seven strong contingency travelling with Action Aid Trust who work in collaboration with Rise, the Archdiocese of Maseru and the Ministry of Education and Training.  

Action Aid Trust focuses on providing infrastructure, planning, improving basic facilities and sanitation in Lesotho, including the ‘5 Hub Schools’ project.

The schools’ project in the Lithabaneng area of Maseru saw the delivery of new toilets, a bore hole, school gardens and rain-water harvesting at Seboka Primary School.

Speaking about the project, Kate Mc Kenna, one of the Portmarnock CS students on the trip, stated: “Going to Lesotho was probably one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far. There were no bad days. Every day was a new adventure.  It really opened my eyes to how happy the children were despite how little they had.  

Action Ireland Trust volunteers hard at work

“I am so grateful that I have made some life-long friends and amazing memories. It was a privilege to go on this trip and something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime”.

Lesotho is a small, independent country surrounded by theRepublic of South Africa. Formerly known as Basutoland, it was officially renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho following its independence from the UK in 1966.

While access to clean water is a human right and proper sanitation facilities a must for students, most schools in Lesotho simply don’t have the funds or the means to provide the infrastructures necessary.

Action Ireland Trust (AIT) together with Rise, take a holistic approach as they engage school boards, teachers, parents, learners and the surrounding communities of Seboka, Makoanyane, Leqele, Lithabaneng Primary and High School.  

The project focus is to develop resources, capacity building and facilities in conjunction with developing personal skills through teaching and learning.

Francis Whelan CEO, Action Ireland Trust (AIT) said: “This project will provide clean flushing toilets, clean drinking water, safe and dignified toilets for over 5,500 learners over the coming years.”

AIT Chairman, Niall Fitzgerald said: “Our organisation continues to provide skills exchange programmes in education, healthcare, information technology, planning and development, architecture, construction, agriculture, sport and recreation. The WASH programme will help establish a model school environment which has clean flushing toilets and hand washing facilities.”

Michael Mc Glynn, AIT Director of Education also noted: “Through the 5 Hub Schools project, WASH Clubs have been established where teachers and local activists are teaching water conservation and harvesting, sanitation and life-skills while using the mediums of art, music, poetry and computers to positively engage learners”.

Action Ireland Trust Board Members pictured with school principals in Lesotho

Daniela Gusman, Founder of Rise International welcomed the provision of these vital facilities for Lesotho schools.

She said: “Access to clean water is a human right. Sanitation facilities, especially in schools with over 900 learners each, are essential for children to have dignified and hygienic facilities – it also means the girls no longer have to miss a week from school during menstruation.”

Francis Whelan concluded: “We are thankful to all our partners, the Quinn Family Foundation, the British High Commission for their sponsorship, the principals and students of the five participating schools, for their tireless work in progressing this project.”

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