Never too late to volunteer in Africa

The collapse of the Celtic Tiger and the focus on the disaster in Haiti has had an unexpected effect on the street children and orphans of Africa. An inability to access help and funding is crippling the efforts of orphanages and rehabilitation centres to help some of Africa’s most vulnerable children.

The support of volunteers from Ireland has now become crucial to the survival of many small projects. Denis Buckley of Humanitarian Volunteers is actively canvassing for ordinary Irish women and men to contribute just two weeks of their life to work on a project in Africa and give a child a chance in life.

School dropout is a major factor leading children to full time life on the streets in Africa. According to Mr Buckley, despite the fact that school is an incredible opportunity to intervene and promote youth resilience, many street children rarely view school as a positive alternative to home life. However, while street children dislike school, they do highly value education.

This is where the Irish volunteers can help. They can give hope and transform young lives. They can build friendships with these children and assist them to trust once more. They can equip them with the tools to ensure a smooth transition back into society and to a sustainable and confident independence.

Volunteers in the past have used their knitting skills, Irish dancing experience, art, languages, music, sports, and a variety of other skills to assist these children.

One recent senior citizen volunteer encouraged the children to become authors and write stories. The kids were given the freedom to choose which kind of story to write. Professional staff were amazed that the kids were particularly enthusiastic about this activity. It prompted great interaction with the kids, in which they shared ideas and thoughts. 

“The slums and rural areas surrounding Nairobi, Kenya, have some of the highest poverty in the region,” Mr Buckley said. “Food — by a wide margin — is the chief concern of orphaned children, followed by access to clothing and shelter. These children do not have the support of community and health services, and are exposed to the dangers of living on the streets.”

Africa suffers from five million child deaths a year. Even for those lucky or privileged to make it past their fifth birthday, their future is bleak. Girls in particular have very few chances in life and where families have to choose between educating a boy child or a girl, it is usually the boy who will stay in class.

Girls not only take on unpaid household chores like childcare, cooking and cleaning, but are also likely to be expected to bring in a wage.

Despite the economic downturn, Mr Buckley and humanitarian volunteers continue to support projects and children by supplying them with small groups of volunteers from Ireland. The decrease in financial aid from governments and aid agencies makes volunteering all the more crucial.

Volunteers will work in street children centres in Kenya or Tanzania. They will assist with sports and games, arts and crafts, school studies, teaching English, farm work, decorating, or assisting generally in the operation of the centres. Their presence will be of enormous benefit to the physical and emotional benefit of the children. They will help them to trust once again.

For further details contact Denis Buckley on 086 852 0271.

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