Shauna Caherly will be travelling to Nansana, Uganda this July to work with Nurture Africa and assist children affected by HIV.
Killoe naive Shauna Caherly is currently gearing herself up for the trip of a lifetime as she prepares to volunteer in one of the most poverty stricken regions in Africa this July.
The Longford woman has been busy fundraising for the programme and after setting up her GoFundMe Page, she them embarked upon two local fundraising campaigns - a table quiz in Killoe and a subsequent Coffee Morning in Cullyfad Community Centre after Mass last Sunday.
As a result of the generosity and support she received, Shauna has now exceeded her target of €2,500 to travel to Nansana, Uganda this summer to work with children affected by HIV.
She is still collecting money for the organisation and anyone wishing to donate to this very worthy cause can do so on the GoFundMe Page.
“The generosity of people has been amazing,” smiled Shauna talking to the Leader at the weekend.
“I have reached my funding target now which is €2,500 so I’m delighted with that, but I am still collecting money so people can continue to donate if they wish to do so.”
Meanwhile the Killoe native has just completed a degree in Science Education at University of Limerick (UL).
And while she admits that it was tough going, both she and her classmates “got there in the end” and are now qualified in Biology, Chemistry and Ag Science for Senior Cycle and in Research Science.
“I’m delighted to be out now and looking for a job,” added Shauna before pointing out that she won’t have to do a HDip either as that aspect was included in the degree course.
“It was like doing two degrees in one to be honest with you and while it was great to get it all done in four years, it was tough going during that time.
“I have a teaching degree and a science degree, so I have some options, but I’m happy enough to go with the teaching end of it for now - that’s what I wanted to do.”
But before she knuckles down in earnest to looking for those all important jobs, Shauna will undertake the three week volunteering programme with Nurture Africa and travel to Nansana, where she will teach in the local school and work with children affected by HIV.
Nurture Africa, meanwhile, is an Irish founded internationally registered non-governmental organisation that works in Uganda with a targeted focus on Healthcare, Education, Child Protection, Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment through business training and micro-finance projects.
“Nansana is like a small town in Uganda and when I go there I will be teaching in the local schools,” said Shauna, before pointing to the work that Nurture Africa does and how it centres around children and helps to empower them.
“The organisation facilitates structured and tailored short term overseas volunteer placements for second and third level students and professionals willing to offer their invaluable time, skills and energy in order to assist the effort. It also aims to nurture the physical and emotional development of children in the region who are infected with or affected by HIV, by providing access to healthcare and education.
“It also focuses on education, healthcare and gender equality and helps children to build themselves out of poverty; when I arrive there I will be teaching 3rd class and there is 90 children in the class, so that is going to be challenging!.”
Shauna will engage in an extensive programme of learning and educating when she arrives in the region in July.
“I’ll be teaching in the morning and then in the evening we will be doing home visits; I’ll be teaching English, Maths, Art, Science and a little bit of PE,” she smiled before pointing out that Nurture Africa also established a maternity ward in the town in recent times and it has had a positive impact on the lives of the people living there.
“I am hoping that I will get to see that healthcare facility when I get there.”
There are already many positive developments underway in Nansana, the Longford woman continued.
“At the moment there is a focus on providing children with food with they arrive at school because in a lot of cases in Nansana children only eat once a day.
“They are going to start harvesting oats at the school and then they will provide the children with porridge when they arrive for classes.”
One of the saddest facts about Nansana is that almost everyone living there is either infected or affected by HIV.
That, says Shauna, is why Nurture Africa remains so focused on educating people.
“Even minor illness that we would take for granted here in Ireland are a huge deal for people living in Uganda because there is simply very little treatment available to them,” she added.
“Nurture Africa actually employs a lot of natives in the region and teaches them skills like cooking, tailoring and hairdressing so that they can work and are employable.”
Shauna says too that this volunteering effort has always been something she wanted to do, and so she took the bull by the horns this year and committed to the trip.
Another girl from Mullingar whom Shauna knows is also travelling to Nansana and she is delighted to have that additional support behind her.
“I have always wanted to do something like this; something really drew me to this particular initiative,” she smiled.
“I feel that we have so much in this country and yet there is this view that everyone is so poverty stricken in Africa.
“And, while we all appreciate that there is a lot of poverty, there is also a lot of happiness among people who have a lot less than we have.
“I think it would be a very humbling for me to experience that.
“On this side of the world we have become so materialistic and just because others don’t live like that doesn’t mean they are not happy.
“I think that it is important to experience the way people live in impoverished countries.”
For the meantime, Shauna is focusing on the trip and enjoying her new found freedom after four years of study!
“I loved Limerick and I had a great four years there but I’m not sorry to be finished studying for a while though,” she laughed.
“I’m Back in Longford now for the summer and Killoe is a great place to live.
“I love it there and I would love to live and settle down in Longford.
“You don’t meet people like those in Longford anywhere else - they are the salt of the earth.
“I want to thank everyone so much for all their support and help.”