The chance to give the children of a small, impoverished part of Africa a better future is what everyone attending a country music dance in Mullingar at the end of the month will be creating.
by Ronan Casey
County music star Mike Denver will be the headline at a special fundraising dance in the Mullingar Park Hotel on Thursday, July 24, the proceeds of which will go toward the construction of a fully operational school in Amani, Tanzania.
The school will be part of an amazing orphanage development in Amani which the people of Westmeath have funded through their generosity – with some even building it with their bare hands.
‘John’s Amani Orphanage’ started in 2010 when well-known local photographer John McAuley visited the region to photograph wildlife in the Serengeti National Park. It was whilst returning from the trip that John encountered the conditions local orphans lived in for the first time. The poverty and lack of facilities was a life-changing moment for John and upon his return to Ireland, he set about fundraising to help create a better life for the sick, lonely children he had encountered.
Over the years, he and a small army of local volunteers have funded and built a variety of homes and buildings, playgrounds, outbuildings, gardens and even space for animals and a school is the next logical step. Just a euro will buy and fit a brick.
The school will give the children an education in both their native tongue and in English, which John feels will be hugely beneficial to them. “If even one went on to become a doctor in Europe, or another could become a teacher, we’ll have given them a chance they never would have had,” John told Topic this week.
There are 26 children currently in the orphanage he built in 2012 and John hopes the school will become self-sufficient with children not from the orphanage allowed to attend for a tiny fee. “This will pay for our teachers,” John says. “We have one local girl currently training in University to be a teacher – her education paid for by a Mullingar company. she is the first girl from there to ever go to a University so it’s a big deal. And we hope to send another girl soon. The children are willing to learn.”
John says the dance is the last fundraiser before he and 13 volunteers fly over to Tanzania on August 7th to finish building and kit out the school.
John says several local teachers are joining him on the latest trip, with some bringing materials and learning equipment donated by local schools.
He says the 2010 encounter with the orphans is still in his mind today. “If you saw what I saw… it hit me so much that I just couldn’t turn my back on it,” he says, adding he, like the young orphans of Armani, are eternally grateful to the people of Mullingar for their support thus far.
Mike Denver said he was delighted to be performing at the dance for such a good cause. The country singer is bringing his full band and production with him, and the show should be a memorable night of dancing at the hotel.
Mike hits the stage at 10pm sharp, and tickets are on sale now, priced just €15 from the Mullingar Park Hotel or on the door on the night.
Tickets can also be bought in person from John McAuley (087) 6157349.