Lesotho ’13

Welcome to the PCS Lesotho 2013 Blog.

Update Number 2, 15 February

Schools Projects Wrap Up and Homeward Bound

Video 1  Video 2 

Time to head home now. Catching up with the schools projects so you can see the

final stages of the work done.

The success in the class rooms can be seen the video “Farewell Concert” posted
earlier this week http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbZzeE2Rkco

Separate to this the builders worked 9 days straight to complete the new add-on
building. The structure comprises of headmaster office, staff room, meeting room
and reception. It is fully wired and only requires plastering (inside and outside) and
internal ceiling to fully complete. A remarkable achievement and the video show clip
“Building School and Garden end pics” attached here shows the finished product.

Behind this building the foundation have been laid for a science block by local
contractors. Action Ireland Trust are in discussions with the local government for
them to fund the completion of this building based on the strategy that the government
will match Euro for Euro the spend we make.

In the garden the keyhole garden, square foot garden, regular sowing were completed
and a bottle top garden started (video explains all!).

A corrugated shed incorporating a hen run has been build. All the gardening
equipment is been housed there and the collection of eggs is part of the sustainability
project for the school.

The involvement in the Primary School brought great happiness to all involved and
the video “Primary School and Smiles” captures it all. http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=i1u8k5WKPGA

We are packing up as I write and the journey home has begun in earnest. The videos
over the two weeks capture the work done the benefits we leave behind with our
friends in Lesotho.

The other side of the story is what do we bring back with us to Ireland. What is it that
makes people give up two weeks of their holidays, fundraise all year to come back
each year. It is simple as we get to see a glimpse of life where you don’t want any day
to end and you want to borrow from tomorrow.

The real legacy for ourselves is of course in our 33 students who travelled this year
and how their experiences in Lesotho will shape their future character, actions and
choices.

Update Number 1, 15 February

St Joseph’s Hospital, Roma, Lesotho

The video to accompany this posting is here. [Hopefully it will play where you are viewing it!]. Last nights may be viewed here.

As part of our updates on the projects we report below on the three main areas of work associated with the hospital building, medical and dental following.

As for the kids we had our David Attenborough experience today which was most memorable. Tomorrow at 1pm we begin the journey home and look forward to seeing you all again on Saturday. Final updates on the other projects will follow tomorrow.

The Building Project – Charlie Costello

Roma is located a 40 minute drive from the capital Maseru, through mountain passes and wide open plains. The hospital is a series of single story buildings with a corrugated roof. The hospital serves a population of about 120,000 people (the size of Tallaght) and draws its patients from the surrounding mountains and lowlands.

The town of Roma (if you could call it that) is the home of the National Lesotho University with a student population of 20,000. St Joseph’s Hospital also has a nurses training college with accommodation for 100 nurses.

The hospital is poorly funded, lacks essential equipment and is in poor repair.

The Action Ireland Team have set ourselves a goal of providing both medical and building maintenance support to the hospital.

Although the hospital has a maintenance team to facilitate maintenance and repairs, their lack of equipment, necessary skills and funding has resulted in the deterioration of the fabric and the interior of the buildings.

We have recruited a local building contractor to replace the corrugated roof, install gutters for rainwater harvesting and replace the vinyl floor coverings. Working with the maintenance team in the hospital the Action Ireland team washed and stripped all the paintwork and are in the process of refurbishing all hospital wards. The students interacted with the hospital maintenance personnel and working together as a team they learned new skills and enjoyed the sense of achievement in the completion of the project.

Following the refurbishment of the female ward last year, it was designated as the hospitals first and only private ward, providing the hospital with the opportunity of generating some small but badly needed revenue.

The students can be rightly proud of delivering the newly decorated facility of the hospital and the impact they had on everyone they came in contact with. Their commitment and enthusiasm motivated the entire team and they return home with new skills to decorate their own bedrooms!

Medical Update – Dr Michael Colclough

The Medical team in Lesotho consisted of myself, 3 nurses Patrica, Roisin and Clair along with 3 final year medical students from RCSI-Bahrain, and our own TY students.

We participated in the various departments in Roma Hospital. There are a total of 5 doctors working in the hospital, one of whom was absent and I undertook to work in one of the out-patient clinics as his replacement. On a daily basis I saw up to 50 patients with a broad range of medical problems including HIV-AIDS, TB, lung problems, malnutrition etc.. The medical and TY students sat in on these clinics with me. I also did a “distance clinic” high up in the mountains (spectacular views) for HIV- AIDS patients and was very impressed with the standard of care shown by staff and local volunteers. However the buildings and equipment in these clinics left a lot to be desired.

The nurses were fantastic with our TY students ensuring that they were exposed to experience on the wards, in the clinics, in A&E and especially in the labour ward. For some of the students the highlight of the trip was assisting in the delivery of a couple of babies at the hospital – an experience I am sure they will never forget.

Overall our students experience was a positive one with great feedback. I am pleased to say that at all times in the hospital they displayed due courtesy and respect to the patients and the staff, and we were very proud of them.

Along with our colleagues from the RSCI School of Nursing Bahrain we were able to give some practical support to the hospital staff in the areas of hand hygiene, systems management and organization of the out-patient clinics; a role we hope to continue to pursue at a further time.

We also brought to the hospital your very generous donations of clothes, toys and medical equipment and distributed these as best we could to the most deserving people. They were received with great thanks and humility by the people and patients in St Joseph’s.

A lot of work remains to be done by Action Ireland Trust at the Hospital. Hopefully we helped in some small way on this occasion and look forward to helping again in future years.

Dental Update – Dr Martin Tier

This year dental treatment was provided in St Joseph’s Hospital Roma and in the rural clinic in Nazareth. In an attempt to upgrade the service at the hospital the authorities there are trying to improve conditions and equipment. This is a work in progress, but a start has been made.

In Nazareth conditions are very poor with no water, light or sterilizing equipment. There were a great number of people treated under poor conditions at both sites.

Everybody was most appreciative of our efforts, both hospital staff and patients attending for treatment.

Again this year it was a privilege to be out here working with so many volunteers and students whose enthusiasm and efforts never ceased to amaze me.

Update 14 February

Back on the Road

After 10 days in Maseru we were back on the road for the day…heading back up to South Africa. A hail storm for 15 minutes not only broke the sunshine but also stopped us in our tracks as it was impossible to see ahead of the front of the car…and then as quick sunshine again. We have a day off tomorrow and then start the process of heading back to Dublin on Friday.

Over the next few days we will post progress on the various projects and the various videos will catch up with recent events…video of the Farewell Concert posts with this blog.

(Mr. O’ Mahony is in Germany at the moment and national Digital Rights (Restrictions in my personal view) Management won’t allow the video to be uploaded) Click here for your country!

Education blog

The education section of the Lesotho project started with a workshop for teachers from Hlalele High School. The facilitators of this workshop approached it with a degree of apprehension and trepidation, however this soon dissipated as conversation and discussion broke out with ease amongst all the participants. The ease in which all contributed to the lively discussions was probably the result of work done earlier in the year when Michael McGlynn had met with the principal of Hlalele High and had learned from her what they wanted dealt with in the workshops. This reflected the main thrust of the whole project, each section working on what the relevant people in Lesotho wanted.

The workshop themes were repeated in the College of Education where the Irish facilitators had several lively discussions with lecturers around the topics of school self-evaluation and active teaching methodologies.

There were six workshops in total held between the college and the school. If time had allowed we could have had many more as so much came out of the discussions that were held.  It was interesting to hear that a major project involving curriculum reform was begun this academic year (the Lesotho year started two weeks before we arrived) with significant changes planned for assessment as well….very similar to Ireland with our proposed changes to the Junior Cycle.

The teachers and lecturers whom we met were very welcoming people who displayed a high level of professionalism with a very strong desire to improve their education system. We hope that our contact and interaction with them will lead to a long term relationship which will help contribute to improving their education system.

Fingal County Council Update

Fingal are delighted to be involved with the Action Ireland Trust project in Lesotho. We are working with the Urban Planners from the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship and Maseru City Council. We will be aiding this mixed group of planners to prepare a local area plan (LAP) for an area called, Linakotseng, which is located to the south-west of Maseru City adjacent to the South African border. It is an area that would be considered rural by Irish standards.

Lesotho '13

PhotoWorkshops are ongoing in relation to the plan making process and application of digital mapping techniques and technology (geographic information systems / GIS) to the plan making process. The team comprises of Joseph Corr, Claire McIntyre and Colin Broderick. We will be staying on one week longer than the rest of the group, so please keep up to date at rustyswaffle.tumblr.com

 

 

Update 12 /13 February

Farewell Concert and Thoughts

Students experience today…

Today in Hlalele High School we repainted one of the classrooms in the junior school. It was hard work but we finished it in the end. We then went to the music concert with all the other students. All the Action Ireland students sang “We are young” and “I’m yours” together. Some of the Hlalele students played the guitar and violin, it was amazing to see what they had learned in the past week. Other students from Hlalele performed a dance in incredible costumes. The atmosphere was very exciting. Fiona, Orla and Becky did an Irish dance and everybody loved it.

After the concert we handed out little surprises like balloons, clothes and sunglasses etc.. The joy on all the children’s faces made us feel like we made a difference. Saying goodbye to the people in the school was very difficult for everyone as we had made great bonds with them all throughout the days. We will miss them all greatly and we cannot wait for them to meet next year’s group of people as we know they’ll be just as happy to help as we were.

…..

Today we finished in the school. The final act been the farewell concert. This year’s concert was special in many ways. Andrea Bruen had her primary dancing school kids on the stage, the highlight being 6 local 10 years Irish dancing to My Irish Molly…all by themselves. Despite musical instrument classes only starting (ever) upon our arrival Brian O’Shaughnessy’s 6 guitar students played their first two cord song. The two violin students went through their full chord sequences on stage having been taught by Ellen …incredible. The “learners” are so enthusiastic to learn things new and to give their full commitment. This was highlighted by the knitting lessons run by Kate and Chloe and to see these kids knitting in between classes. The lasting benefit of our input was happily evident from this year’s show.

Parents you can be very proud of your kids. They probably did a lot more physical work that recent years and their application and can-do attitude helped greatly in so many projects been successfully completed.

So it is time to say goodbye after spending 9 straight days with the people of Hlalele. It is hard to get a handle on all the issues and all your emotions having experienced life here. Here’s a people that have far less than us in the things we measure, and yet they don’t have nothing either. New houses and buildings are cropping up everywhere but given our own recent experience is property a good measure of happiness?

But what they do have we have lost. They are humble, selfless, not burdened by expectations, full of family and community values and Khotso…at peace.

Very young children are attached to their mothers everywhere they go by some miraculous wrapping of a blanket around the mother. Kids from walking age up to 4-5 years are always hand in hand with an older sibling. As they grow older they still hold hands when walking together or arms around each other shoulders and you still see this with the secondary school kids…always close, always supportive.

This thought process originated from the mass on Sunday when we saw literally hundreds of kids going up for the blessing from the Priest after Communion and then it hits you, this is a near 3 hour mass and we haven’t heard a single child cry, and yet we now see them been carried or held on their way for the blessing. When our kids were young you brought their bottle, soother, book, toy and you always had your car keys in reserve when you went to mass, and then you rarely made it to the end of the mass. Here the kids sat close to their mothers, like any other part of their day and were in harmony and unison with all around them.

You will have seen from the photos the young kids here are happiness and perfection themselves; their smiles melt you. They may be walking over an hour to and from school, have basic food to eat, hard floor to sleep on, but they are the happiest kids you could ever meet.

This is definitely a two way cultural exchange and for the better.

Update 11th February



Mixing with Royalty

A Students Perspective first

Over the pasted few years I have seen many ads on tv that show so many starving sad children but when I arrived in Hlalele High School I saw a few hundred happy children who seemed to be a lot different and better nourished compared to the ads I have seen but they still have very little in their lives. This trip has really changed my view on many aspects of life such as you can be happy with so little.

Another student…

I wasn’t sure what to be expecting when I was travelling up to the school that first morning. But what met us on arrival was something I have never seen before and will stay with me forever. The sheer volume and number of happy smiling face screaming with excitement as we pulled into the school was something I could never had imagined. The whole sight was amazing kids were running up to the van and then when we got out we were nearly mauled by the number of kids. I felt great just be able to see it and know I would be here to help them for the next week.

I was also lucky enough to spend a day in the hospital and that was an incredible experience. The whole hospital was filled with people but was very different to our hospitals at home. For one it was not a clean place it was dirty and lacked even simple things like proper disinfectant soap. I also got to see a caesarean section being performed and I could imagine it would be a lot different at home it didn’t seem like they had a lot of pain relief for the women as see still seemed in big pain and even things they need for the baby after birth were not available. Another time a man who needed oxygen wasn’t given it as someone else was using the machine. It was shocking to see all the difference in our two countries but was also amazing to see their life here and it will stay with me forever.

Nice to hear what it means to the kids. Today turned out to be a reception day. At late notice a group of us were invited to the King and Queens (country?) residence this morning. About 1/3rd of the group travelled due to space restrictions, but for those who did it was wonderful. We were based in the garden and the King asked that we update him on every project we were involved in and the informal nature of it was probably the most pleasing. Our musical contribution to the morning was outstanding. Lorcan, Fiona, Ailbhe, Laoise and Ellen played a traditional piece. This was followed by a flute solo by Ailbhe and a singing solo by Laoise. To close off the ceremony this five piece were joined by Siobhan, Conor, Ciaran, Sean and Liam for a couple of songs. Hopefully we will post some footage tomorrow.

This evening we were at a reception at the Ambassador’s residence which allows the kids dress up and feel like royalty. Our hosts Gerry and Anna go out of their way to make us welcome and Brian and the kids entertained them for at least an hour of music and fun.

For the 2/3rds of the group who didn’t travel to the Kinds residence it was business as usual both in the school and the hospital. The builders in particular worked on late as the countdown to finish tomorrow is now upon us. Having met the nuns at the Cheshire home yesterday for the first time we returned today with equipment and other materials form our containers, so I think a lasting relationship has begun (see the video clip to see about the home).

Update 10th February

On Saturday whilst the builders were putting in a full shift the kids went on a hike to Thabu Bosiu, a mountain where the first kings of Lesotho are buried. Although everyone struggled at the start of the climb it was a two hour enjoyable fare ending with a spectacular view of the “Hat Top” mountain which is the symbol of Lesotho. Much better you get the history stuff on the web than from me so…..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaba_Bosiu

Our guide on the walk had many unique mannerisms and this allowed our serial impersonator on the tour Shane Warren to be the co-guide, so good fun. Last night after dinner we had a race night so sad to report on this charity trip we have now introduced your children to the art of gambling!!

 

This morning it was off to a traditional mass. We went to a church in the suburbs of Maseru where the youth choir sang. The music was stunning with about 20 songs during the 2 ½ hour mass. The kids and a few of the adults found it hard to fight the tiredness during the service but the sheer joy in the music and the singers carried us through. The respectful welcome from the congregation was very generous and their applause for our own signing far outweighed its musical merit. A video of the church choir posts tonight.

The mass was also the vesting of a local priest as parish priest from the Salesian Order, with the statute of St John Bosco quite prominent in the church.

We then went afterwards to the nearby Cheshire home for handicapped kids (one of which had had his wheelchair lifted onto the alter at the church to welcome us in perfect English). The centre is run by The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and again was very humbling experience. The centre is built to accommodate the needs of disabled children from age of 6 -18. Amazingly the children are involved in the self sufficiency of the centre through the rearing of chickens, pigs and crops. All waste is utilized in a waste disposal system that not only generates gas for cooking but all effluent returns as clear water for crop growth. The progressive nature of the centre and the overwhelming caring spirit has certainly touched our hearts.

Update 9th February

LESOTHO 2013….a students perspective

As a transition year student of Portmarnock Community School, after travelling over 30 hours to finally arrive in Lesotho, the experience over the past week that I have been lucky to have witnessed has been extremely overwhelming that the wait has been well worth it. After we arrived, the atmosphere between both students and adults was very joyful and everyone was ready to start helping the community of Lesotho as soon as possible to make their life a fraction of how privileged our life is.

When Monday finally came everyone was up out of bed at 6:00 so excited to get ready for action. We all travelled to Hlalele high school to be greeted with the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my whole entire life, every child from both primary and secondary school ran to every car with the biggest look of happiness on each and every one of their faces!  It was so lovely to see how much these children appreciated our presence in their country just to help them. We then went inside for a welcoming mass from the students and teachers of Hlalele School to our team which was an outstanding performance of singing and speeches that brought tears to my eyes!
Throughout the week I have been between Roma hospital doing construction with the builders and medical work with the medical team. I have also done a couple of days work at Hlalele high school and primary school teaching I.T, Dancing and arts and crafts with the students and construction with the builders and there’s more to come following Monday.
This journey has been a once in a lifetime experience that I am very very grateful to have been involved in. I have absolutely no words to describe the feeling I have had all this week the feeling that I am helping these poor people in need! I wish that the next week would never end as I’m having such a great time I can’t believe how amazing it has been. I will always remember this once in a lifetime opportunity for the rest of my life and I hope that many others will get to endure this wonderful chance to come on a trip like this.

Update 8th February

The Football Match

The Football Match

A week since we have left Dublin….

The main focus today was the (now annual) soccer match between the two schools. Each year we somehow manage to have a 6’3” Fire Brigade man to rope in to compensate for our slightly younger team and Ger fitted the bill perfectly (photos tomorrow).

The pitch is best described as a hard rock pitch with grass verges so slide tackles were removed from the lads’ bag of tricks. Having accounted for themselves very well we started to wilt in the second half and we went one behind with 6 minutes to go. Then the Jack Charlton legacy did us proud when a long ball from our keeper went from Holden to Nangle to Kennedy who side footed it home 1-1.

Due to the heat we banned extra time (FIFA rule 216 c 3) and went to penalties. We went first and having missed our third penalty they had their 5th penalty to win and they missed. Shane Nangle scored our first sudden death penalty and through some impressive physiological posturing by our keeper Killian O’Driscoll their player skied the ball over the bar and we won. Last year we lost so the lads this year will be bringing home the bragging rights.

Traditionally the referee is subjected to verbal abuse from our own supporters which this year was punctuated by a new classic…the referee’s a blogger…priceless.

All the projects are moving well. The medical team are involved in both the hospital and the clinics. Given the volume of patients they are seeing and the type of work they are doing it leaves you wondering what happens when there isn’t this influx of resources. There seems to be a shortage of equipment compared to our hospitals but the issue appears not to be solely the sourcing and funding of equipment but the fact they have no way of maintaining the equipment and certain equipment lies idle as its broken.

Tomorrow is a day off for the kids and we are heading off to some landmark of sorts as part of supporting the tourist sites here (there are not many). The remaining adults are heading to the school to the building site to keep the project on track there and to start the painting of the primary school.

The traditional mass we are going to on Sunday is at 8.00am, but we haven’t told the kids that yet (hope they are not used to lie-ins on a Sunday!).

Update 7th February

Khotso

Today we had the mass at the school said by the Archbishop for both the primary and secondary school and of course “our friends from Ireland”. Their choir must have sang over 10 songs and as you can now hear in the back ground music to the videos it is just remarkable. We sang a little and Ailbhe Twomey played the flute beautifully which moved them. I assume this is not an instrument they are familiar with and the round of applause for her was truly genuine.

The Lesotho people are remarkable. When the children smile you are innocent again, when they sing you are moved, when they dance you dance too. Khosto is the word they live to…and that is Peace ….their beauty, grace, humility and community certainly makes one wonder which of us needs the support more.

In the afternoon Sean Egan lead the debate team to a victory with a measured and reasoned debating style that grew huge praise from the Lesotho English teacher. He was a little hard on his own pupils though especially given that English is their second language.

Our senior teachers have been working with the teacher training college all week and the progress since last year continues and overall we are helping create a positive teaching framework going forward. Pat and Niall visited two primary schools in the afternoon to deliver all the schoolbooks which Folens had donated to us…pictures tomorrow.

Luke Doran and Orla McKiernan were present today at a caesarean operation where the RSCI – Bahrain team performed CPR on the new born baby boy for whom the cries eventually came. Some experience and both very happy to have been there.

All the building and refurb projects are going well.

Tomorrow school challenge match and the Puc Fada competition.

Update 6th February

First an update from Roma Hospital from Roisin O’Kelly

Becky Bruen, Ailbhe Twomey and I had a particularly exciting day as part of the medical team. I was assigned to the maternity ward and the two students were permitted to have a look and see. Lucky for them, a young African lady, Violet, arrived at 9am in early labour and was happy for the girls to stay for the delivery.

The 2 students did very well, they were really helpful and cheerful. They stayed with the patient for the whole time. Despite difficult conditions and in pain, the woman remained calm. There was no pain killers or Epidural available. The excitement steadily mounted and they were truly in awe when a beautiful baby boy, weighing 2-9 kgs was delivered at 11am. To everyone’s surprise, Violet was up and about in 15mins! She was absolutely delighted when she was presented with a lovely set of baby clothes from Ailbhe and Becky, donated by the parents of Portmarnock Community School.

Lorcan, Ciaran, Ross and Ryan did great work painting in Roma Hospital to-day. The main corridor of the hospital was painted a nice bright lemon and it certainly cheer the place up no end.

In the afternoon, they had a tour of the hospital with Roisin and were mistaken for medical students by one of the nurses who went to great lengths to explain to them all the difficult cases on the ward! So they certainly learned a lot!  They were also shown how to take blood pressure and how to use basic medical equipment.

Dr Martin Tier had a busy day in his new dental clinic. Many beaming smiles from the local people bade us farewell thanks to Martins good work.

A wonderful day was had by all!

All the other projects are moving along well. Varying degrees of tiredness kicked in for the kids as the long days and the heat took its toll. We had the Archbishop and the Ambassador over for dinner this evening which was a formal dress night for which all your children shone. We have just been entertaining the Archbishop to an Irish sing song and despite many promptings from Damian he wouldn’t sing. However our kids shone brightly…so 7 of them either sang, played piano and guitar…it is not often that Brian is relegated to backing musician for a full session.

Tomorrow it is the Archbishop’s mass in the school where the full village as well as the students attend.

Our best wishes go out to the family of Mark Wilson back home (he’s singing the Wild Rover as I type) who celebrates his 50th birthday today. Mark is in charge of the Fire Brigade team and has his daughter Jessica here with us. Happy Birthday Mark.

…..and make that 8 kids now who have got up to sing.

Update 5th February

Now we are Hurling….

Today was a very productive day. No matter how much planning goes into a trip it is not until you are here on the ground that you can co-ordinate matters fully. Today the projects were running at 100%

The school was a hive of activity. Our hurling and camogie players were teaching two of the classes the skills of hurling. There will be a Puc Fada competition on Friday but we assume they can’t be that quick of learners. The horticulture project of the square foot garden (keyhole garden) is up and running and a number of classes were involved in the project. Margaret and Tony running the project showed a video on how the concept works and thanks to the joys of YouTube it was actually based on a project in Lesotho itself. It was interesting that the students were aware of the concepts but yet the fenced off garden area we left last year looked quite barren.

The building project is moving at great pace. Our kids have been great in their labourer roles …even in 32 degrees of heat. Our electricians have started wiring all the classrooms…again it’s the simple things we forget that until we brought electricity into their computer room last year there was not electricity here at all.

Irish dancing classes were started today and we hope they will be dancing to “My Irish Molly” at our concert next week. Our girls are amazed at the natural rhythm of the Hlalele schools kids and are busy trying to learn their dance moves too.

Our friends from the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland – Bahrain have joined our medical team at St Joseph’s Hospital Lesotho. Since last year the female, maternity and labour wards have been completely refurbished floor to ceiling. One of the Bahrain nurses Fatima helped delivered a baby girl today to the joy of all. The medical team were assisting with all hospital duties today and will move out to the clinics tomorrow. Our kids are helping with the refurbishment this week of the main hospital corridor and the male surgical wards.

The Dublin Fire Brigade lads have been busy growing their relationship with the fire authority here. Their main objections are in fire awareness and fire techniques, training in occupational first aid and to get the local team involved in the community for fire awareness. All records currently are maintained manually and we are pushing for the implementation of a computerized system to record historical data, daily working routines, recording continual professional development of all staff. Also a national control room to despatch resources to right place at the right time and incidence is required. Our partnering and engagement has increased awareness of a national policy for fire prevention and education. In this regard the team will be joining the Fire Commissioner to meet with the Prime Minister next Monday.

Alas we are having difficulty in posting our normal photos and presentations as Lesotho seems to be a no go area with some of the service providers. Pictures are posting daily on the Action Ireland Trust Facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/actionirelandtrust

Update 4th February

In the words of our Students……….

Today we drove into Hlalele High school. The whole journey up the mountains was spectacular. The locals came out of their houses to welcome us. They sang, danced and waved as we drove by. As we came closer to the school the students ran out and surrounded the cars. We felt like minor celebrities they were so happy to see us. We thought our welcome had finished but as we entered the assembly hall they all cheered with excitement as we took our seats. The signing started off by the Hlalele Students signing their National Anthem. It was outstanding, their harmonies were incredible. They were a hard act to follow, as we stood for our anthem…it was nothing compared to theirs…After listening to a few speeches their choir got up to sing and blew us away with their breath taking voices. After that we got up to sing “We are Young” and “Roof up above me”. Shortly after that we walked down to the classrooms we talked to the students and asked them about their culture…They taught us a few Sesotho words and in return we gave them some Irish words…and then just the craic and a little chat.

In the words of one of the parents after listening to the school choir….it would melt you heart.

For all the formalities and welcome it was when Brian started the trips national anthem – Singing in the rain (a ruchaha a ruchaha) – that the roof was raised.

In the projects the greatest momentum was with the School building team. Local contractors had laid the ground work so we hit the ground running laying the blocks. The kids helped building, the horticulture project, the primary school and the musical projects today. This year we have broadened the work in the Primary School and the smiles of these kids is having a big effect on us all.

For the hospital projects all the medical clearances have now been received so the medical project kicks in completely tomorrow. Tomorrow the kids will be spread across the educational projects in the primary and secondary schools, the building project in the school, the medical team in Roma hospital, the refurbishment team in the hospital, and a training day with the fire officers. First of the vans are leaving at 7.00am.

Last night we mentioned little Ellie missing her Daddy. Ellie (age9) is Dave Power’s (building team) youngest daughter and although this is Dave’s 7th straight year on the projects Ellie wasn’t happy he was going out to Lesotho. She bought him a pair of superman socks as a present to mind him and when Dave said he’d wear them every night so said no… only wear one of them and she would wear the other one at home….aaaah.

Update 3rd February

The Calm before the Work

Nice quite day for the kids before the work begins in earnest tomorrow. Sunny in the morning but cloud and rain in afternoon reminded us of home – not for long though!!

The reception with the teachers from Hlalele School and the Teacher Training College went very well. Everyone delighted to see us and the program of work was set out for the rest of the visit.

The visit to the Caves was postponed to next Sunday….the 6.00am wake-up calls tomorrow have focused the minds on rest today (and that’s 4.00am in old money).

We have word that a bigger reception from last year expects us tomorrow so we can only be amazed. We have tried to schedule all the non-school programs tomorrow in a way that as many us as possible can be part of the arrival group. Plenty of photos to be posted tomorrow night.

So tomorrow’s the day and we can’t wait.

Sssh…if she is not in bed yet a special message to little

Miss Ellie in Loughshinny to let you know that your Dad has his superman sock on and loves you loads. Hope you are minding Coadi.

Update 2nd February

Thanks St Christopher…Job Well Done.

Happy to report that we have just now arrived safe and sound at the Hotel after 30 hours of travel. All the prayers from home have worked well again! The local Fire Brigade came to meet us at the border checkpoint and escorted us to the hotel.

It has been a very good journey with a just few short delays on the way. Nicest surprise was in Heathrow were a connecting bus met us off the plane and brought us straight to our departures gate in Terminal 5.

Only couple of minor travel sickness moments with the kids to report but with three nurses in the group the attention the kids were getting was making a few of the adults think about faking a dizzy spell.

Weather lovely for the journey down from Johannesburg, The first 3 hours of the drive is across the flat plains of SA with crops been mostly corn and sunflowers, and then the magnificent mountains of Lesotho come into view.

Tomorrow will be a slow day to allow the kids to recover. In the afternoon they will a trip to “The Caves” to see the families who live in huts built in the caves. For everyone else it is either a work day or a prep day. The Education Team have a full day as they host a workshop in the hotel for the teachers from Hlalele School and the teacher training college, the Medical team travel to Roma Hospital and Fire Brigade team meet with their Maseru counterparts.

Update: 16th January

From Portmarnock to Lesotho is a  full length documentary from Near TV, Dublin. It was made after the 2012 visit to Lesotho.

Update: 14th January

On 1 February 30 PCS Transition Students will form part of the Action Ireland Trust two week visit to Lesotho. This is the 7th year that Transition Students will be travelling to Africa for charity work. The school is twined with the Hlalele Secondary School which is situated 30 kms east of the Lesotho capital Maseru and the main focus of the students activities and cultural exchange projects will be based at the school. The educational team travelling are also running a series of programs with the teacher training college.

The overall project itself is much broader and involves a medical program based from St Joseph’s Hospital Roma (Lesotho’s second biggest city), building programs at both the hospital and the school, development work by staff from Dublin Fire Brigade and Final County Council in fire safety and town planning and horticultural projects

The blog will provide daily updates from Lesotho. We hope to post an update by 8pm each evening which will allow families and friends keep up to date with the students activities. Pictures and videos of the day’s activities will also up loaded to YouTube daily and these can be accessed directly from the blog too.

So hopefully 8pm Saturday 2 February 2013 the first posting will appear here….technology permitting!!!

In the meantime here is one of the links form last year’s trip highlighting the Lesotho landscape and their people. The accompanying music is taken from the Archbishop’s mass at Hlalele School during the visit.