A group of volunteers from Coalisland Parish group Zambia Education Development (ZED) have just returned from two weeks in the African country, where they met some of the children they are putting through school.
The organisation, founded by parish priest Father Paul Byrne and Coalisland man Bosco McShane, raises money to sponsor children living in Zambia’s Chipata Compound, and provide them with learning tools like computers.
Jack Donnelly, who has been involved with the group for some time, told the Times that the work done by ZED is vital to St Paul’s School and pre-school, which are being sponsored through the programme.
Speaking from Zambia, where he will stay until August 1, he said: “To quote Nelson Mandela, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world’.”
Working alongside the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa, whom Mr Donnelly explained “greeted [them] with open arms”, he said he feels that ZED is making a real difference in a place where people sleep where they work, children run around unclothed and many are suffering with HIV, TB or other illnesses.
Jack also visited for two weeks in July 2013, when he helped out as a classroom assistant in the pre-school.
“We went in and we would do something like the ABCs or colouring in,” he said, “we would just sit among them and their English wouldn’t be good, but it wouldn’t be awful either, and we would help them as much as we could.
“We felt an overwhelming appreciation, we felt that just by sitting among the group that we were making a difference.”
Before leaving for home the group were shown the new computer suite that will be named the “Coalisland Room” to mark the support given by the people back home who contributed to the purchase of equipment.
A tree planting marked their farewell - with the first time volunteers doing the planting.