Our clients know Ellen as the incredibly hard-working girl with a great eye for the finer details. What they may not know about her is that she’s also an all-round good egg.
On the 18th of November this year, Ellen set off for Africa with a group of 50+ GAA players and musicians all taking part in a project to raise €400k and plant 1 million trees as part of the “Plant the Planet Games”. The games are the brainchild of Warriors for Humanity founder and Galway-man Alan Kerins and are supported by the Gaelic Players Association and Self Help Africa. Now back on home soil, we asked Ellen if she could put together a few words on what she says was “truly one of the most incredible and humbling weeks of my life.”
Africa’s first plant the planet games
The trip kicked-off with the historic “Plant the Planet Games” on Sunday, 19th of November in Nairobi’s Ruby Club. This was the first ever intercounty mixed male and female GAA match to be played in Africa. We were joined by hundreds of local school children and supporters who were amazed to see our Irish sports live and in person. Once the games were over, a mini training session followed and the children’s faces lit-up with pure joy when they were given a football or a hurley and sliotor to play with. It’s hard to believe but due to levels of unemployment and poverty in Kenya, many of the children we met had never played with a real leather ball before. Instead, they make their own out of waste material, or often play games that don’t require any sporting equipment like running races against each other. And so it was incredible to watch how much they enjoyed learning the skills of our Irish sports.
Planting the first of 1 million trees
Our itinerary for the next five days was jam-packed as we travelled around Kenya to kick start the planting of 1 million trees together with Self Help Africa and Brighter Communities Worldwide and see first-hand the amazing work that these organisations are doing on the ground. It is worth noting that our group of 50 was never going to plant 1 million trees in the space of a week! But we rolled up our sleeves and got our hands dirty at each project, planting a few thousand trees across dairy farms, schools, hospitals and tree nurseries. The money that we raised will continue to fund the planting of these trees by the local people who will benefit directly from the food, shelter and income that the trees will provide, along with the environmental benefits including rehabilitation of degraded farmland and the removal of carbon from the atmosphere.
Greeted with smiles, song, and dance
We visited a number of primary and secondary schools and were greeted with the warmest welcome in the form of song and dance at every school gate. Even though they have very little in terms of educational resources and facilities, I have never met a group of more enthusiastic and engaged students who are genuinely excited about studying, completing their exams and going to university. They all had big dreams and career ambitions to become teachers, pilots and doctors, and they truly believe that education is the key to get them there. This level of education would not be possible without the work of Self Help Africa and Brighter Communities Worldwide who are leading the development of these schools and their students.
The medical professionals on our trip visited Londiani’s County Hospital and Health Centre which is providing safer prenatal and postnatal services for women, along with enhanced HIV screening and treatment services. Although they are working with far more depleted resources than what our Irish Hospitals have, the small changes are making big differences. One of the final projects we visited was the Tarakwo Tree Nursery, founded in 2013 by 4 women which has now grown to a 17 strong group of 14 women and 3 men and provides a sustainable income for each of them based on their outputs. This nursery supplied the trees that we planted in some of the schools and also donates tree seedlings to local communities. Their vision is to plant more trees and become environmental champions and the money we have raised will support them in achieving this.
The devastation of the “Horn of Africa” drought
The importance of trees in the battle to combat the increasing impact of climate change – as well as providing a sustainable source of food and income for local communities – was brought into sharp focus for all of us during our final stop in Baringo. This area of Africa has not experienced a rainy season in four years, a direct result of climate change. This extreme drought has left rivers running dry which means communities often have to walk for hours to access clean water. Activities such as tree planting and drip irrigation schemes are so vital for these families who are trying their best to cope with the ongoing drought.
Making history and leaving a legacy in Kenya
The kindness, resilience, and positivity of the Kenyan people is inspiring. Even though they have so little and are struggling with the effects of climate change and poverty across all aspects of their daily lives, they have so much generosity to offer. Being confronted with this different standard of living was at times difficult, but I am so thankful for this eye-opening experience that has made me even more grateful and has reinforced my commitment to the environment and acting now.
Alan Kerins’ vision for this trip was to make history, leave a collective legacy and most importantly, to make an impact. His vision has very much turned into a reality, raising over €400k so far with the ambition to surpass the €500k mark by the end of 2022. This will go a long way in supporting the incredible work being done by Self Help Africa and Brighter Communities Worldwide for the local families, communities, and the environment. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far, and to IMS Marketing for their support and generosity. The donation page will remain open until the end of December for anyone who would still like to support: https://www.idonate.ie/event/planttheplanet