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2007-12-18 The Celtic Tenors return to Sligo for January concert

Sligo Weekender

SligoWeekender columnist James Nelson and the Celtic Tenors make a long awaited return to Sligo on Friday, January 18 with a performance in the Hawk's Well Theatre.

Tickets for the concert, which will be the only Sligo performance by the tenors in 2008, are already on sale and would make excellent Christmas gifts. All the
funds from the concert will be going to a worthy cause too, helping build classrooms and accommodation at Cheryl's Children's Home in Nairobi, Kenya.

James returned from his second trip to this orphanage in late November, having been deeply affected by his first visit to Nairobi in June.

"I went in June as part of a building team, mostly made up of Sligo people who were building classrooms and accommodation for the girls of Cheryl's
Children's Home.

"Basil Love [childhood friend and organiser] has been going there for years now and I've written a few columns on him. He said I should come along, but I
kind of knew that once I went, I'd want to come back.

"We built accommodation for the girls in June and they are now in that accommodation. They have the first flush toilets some of them have ever
seen.

"Basil worked with a number of orphanages including St Pauls which I visited last week. When I went in I was just going to see it. I was taken on a five-hour
tour of the place.

"The first thing they showed me was a twoday old baby girl who had been dumped in a closed paper bag outside on the street. They took her into the orphanage and she is thankfully healthy. They called her Hope."

It is personal stories like this which dominate any conversation James has about his trips to Nairobi. For many of the Sligo people including Bobby Egan, Brian Scanlon and Caroline Currid, who went there, meeting the very children which they would be helping, left a huge impression.

"They have a sponsorship scheme in all the orphanages, where you can sponsor a child," said James. "I took on a sponsor child when I was first there. I got to spend time with my little fellow, called Joseph, and on the final day he lost it completely, because I'm the closest to a father figure he's had.

"His mother died when he was four months old. He never had a father. His grandmother took care of him, but beat him and left him outside.

"You send the money once a month by direct debit, they send a quarterly report on your child and a quarterly letter from the child."

The cost of sponsoring a child is as little as $1,000 which works out at less than •60 a month. Children can be sponsored for a year or for four years, which is how long it takes them to go through high school education in Kenya. Just visit www.cherylshome.net

Sponsoring a child is one way of contributing, but as James points out, there is something closer to home too. The concert on January 18 will raise funds which will go directly to the orphanage work project that Basil Love is spearheading.

"There is no middleman. Every cent literally goes on buying the building materials for the orphanage. Every team member raised money to go towards the building supplies."

The next time James goes back to Nairobi will be in June, when the team will be building new dormitories for the boys, with shower and toilet facilities that
the vast majority of homes in the Kibera Slum simply do not have.

"The streets are literally made from human waste. There is plastic and paper and open sewers. The smell of disease is overpowering. It is the most wretched living conditions I have ever seen," said James, who contrasts this with the treatment he enjoys as a member of the Celtic Tenors.

"When I left in June I went straight to Toronto, Canada for a corporate gig and I was staying in a six-star hotel, having spent the previous week in a shack in
Nairobi. It was surreal."

And yet, amidst this human squalor, hope and inspiration can be found. The children in the orphanage are taught to read and write and many go on to secondary level education through scholarships.

Some, despite the incredible odds, go even further. "There is a young lad I met on the last day I was there. His name is James and when he was nine-years-old he watched his father kill his mother.

"His father was sent to prison and James went to Cheryl Children's Home. He's going next year to study engineering at university. It is incredible, these children who otherwise would not have had a chance."

The Celtic Tenors concert on January 18 will be an all-acoustic affair with no amplification at all, just four voices and a piano. Tickets are already on sale.
Contact the Hawk's Well on 071-91 61518 / 61526.