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2005-01-11 Help the children who eat the same meal 365 days a year without moaning

On December 27, en route from Sligo to Wicklow, I called in to see Basil Love at his beautiful home at the foot of the Ox Mountains, outside Ballisodare off the Ballina Road, to talk with him about his plans for 2005.

 

It was 11, on a Bank Holiday morning, and Basil had already been up for 3 hours - building a wall - while the rest of the house slept soundly. When eventually Basils wife - Breege - surfaced, she said "Ah, sure that´s Basil for you, always has to be doing something!". Breege, naturally, knows Basil best, but it only takes a few moments in Basil Loves company to realise that here is a man who is not just your average human-being, but more of an above-average human-doing!
 

As many of you will know from this column, Sligo-man Basil Love climbed Kilimanjaro last year to help raise funds for displaced Rwandan street-children. He returned to Kenya with 8 other volunteers in August 2004 on a Humanitarian Volunteer Project, carrying out essential maintenance work in St Pauls Centre in Makuru on the outskirts of Nairobi, as well as taking 25 of the centre´s children for an unforgettable holiday. These are children, for whom food, rather than toys, is a priority.
 

The St Pauls children eat the same meal 365 days a year, without moaning. At least they eat, which is more than can be said for the 50,000 other homeless children wandering the slums of Nairobi. These children are used to nothing, and thus never complain. Everything that falls in their path is a bonus.
 

Every Christmas in Ireland, we spend more and more money, so much so that children are learning to devalue what we once worked hard for. Childrens perspective and sense of value, for the most part, has gone, down the toilet.
 

The St Pauls children, on the other hand, appreciate even the most basic of things, and always seem happy. Last August in Makuru, as Basil was carrying out essential repair work, as he cleaned and repaired dormitories, he noticed that there were no toys at all in this home. As he worked away, little Kiri - who he had befriended the year before - kept popping in for an inquisitive peep, and a chat, and a giggle. The St Paul's children make their own entertainment.
 

St Paul's depends solely on voluntary contributions, and receives no state funding whatsoever. The 25 children being taken on holiday to Mombassa had never before been more than one kilometre from their home. After two minibus rides, and an overnight train journey, the excited kids arrived in Mombassa for their trip of a lifetime.
 

They learned to swim in the hotel pool, played for hours on the beach, went sight-seeing and tasted new foods. When the time came to leave, each child returned to the beach one at a time, to sit for a while on a rock, to say goodbye, to give thanks for their week in paradise. Many of them read aloud letters of gratitude, which understandably brought tears to the eyes of the organisers.
 

At Sunday mass, each week in Makuru, the celebrant, Father Pat OToole from Mayo, has watched his congregation grow from 10 to 1500. Each week, the 2 -hour mass is packed to the rafters, and lays a heavy emphasis on singing, dancing and congregation participation. The Churches in Ireland could learn a lot from the African churches, just as Basil has learned a lot from the entire experience.
 

This year Basil Love, an instructor at Sligos Fas Centre, returns to Nairobi as Director of Operations to build two classrooms, as well as carrying out the usual essential repair and maintenance work.
 

On Sunday 16th January, at 8pm, in the idyllic setting of Markree Castle, a fundraising concert for Basil Loves outstanding work in East Africa will take place. Performers include Siobhan Terry, Kathleen OHara, this columnist, and the Sligo Early Music Ensemble under the direction of Rod Alston.
 

Tickets are E25 each, and the price includes a warm seasonal drink and some of Charles Coopers tasty nibbles! Tickets are available at Keohanes bookshop in Castle Street, Keaneys in High Street, Star Records in the Tesco Arcade, or direct from Basil Love on 071 - 9159518.