After five days of trade meetings, cultural events and TV appearances, Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran says his recent visit to Kenya has given him a new perspective on life, while also strengthening the ties between Ireland and the East African nation.
The visit included meeting with Irish embassy staff in Nairobi, speaking with missionaries, and trade discussions aimed at enhancing the already well developed relationship between Ireland and Kenya.
Despite the obvious differences between Ireland and Kenya, Minister Moran says he was struck by the many similarities he witnessed on his trip, particularly in the area of agriculture and farming.
"We took a drive up through rural Kenya," he said. "They are huge farmers over there, with men, women and children all pitching in. It shows the amount of work they all put in to put food on their tables.
"We have high tech machinery in Ireland, so they are behind in that respect. But they have older tractors and they have them shining and fully functional. There are also 800,000 people employed in Kenya in potato production, and that has grown steadily in the last three years, so there are a lot of similarities to speak of."
A visit that struck Minister Moran particularly hard was his trip to the Makuru slum in east Nairobi, where he witness the extremely difficult conditions people are living under.
"The trip I wanted to do most was to visit the slums, and I got to do that on the Thursday," Minister Moran commented. "There is one doctor seeing 28,000 patients a year there. They have TB, cholera and aids is rampant. We met a lot of people, school children, and saw the lives they are living.
"Families are living in 10 foot by 10 foot sheds, some with six children. They have a mattress, it is about two foot long and a foot wide, and that is all they have separating them and the cold, wet ground. They eat and sleep in that same room. Some have chickens at the entrance of their homes laying eggs. One woman had a space at the back of her shed to grow vegetables, which she then sells in a tiny shop she has at the front of the house.
"They have to travel miles for water. Electricity cuts out every couple of hours, but every shed has a small generator. It really puts life into perspective to see the conditions and the people living in them. There is no roads, water everywhere, human waster flowing in the water, just very difficult conditions.
"Now I can honestly say that when you give money to Trocaire or any of those organisations it is going a long way towards improving the lot of those people. The Kenyan people and the missionaries I met, no matter where I went, said to thank the Irish people for all of the aid we send over to them."
Minister Moran said one of the highlights of the trip was the so called 'Greening of Simba' ceremony.
"The lion is revered over there and his existence is under threat," Minister Moran said. "They collect all the ocean waste, plastics like flip-flops, and combine it to make a full size line, which then was lit up green. It is a comment on both recycling and on the endangered lion, and it was amazing to see, it blew me away."
Minister Moran also undertook three TV interviews in his time in Kenya, and is confident that the visit will act to deepen and expand the relationship between the African nation and Ireland.
"I enjoyed it immensely, the people of Kenya made me feel so welcome, and I am delighted I was chosen to go there," he concluded.