Grassroots diary: Jim Gavin pilots 5,300 pigs and goats to Africa
He has raised Sam Maguire, the spirits of Dublin and many toasts in recent weeks but Jim Gavin is facing another great test as he airlifts 5,300 animals to Rwanda.
Yesterday, the three-time All-Ireland winning Dublin manager (and one-time All-Ireland winning player) captained crew on board the 'Bóthar Ark' in the biggest ever multi-species airlift from Ireland and the largest of its kind in the world.
Bóthar made its maiden voyage in 1991 by airlifting cows to 20 families in a poverty stricken region of Uganda. Twenty-five years later it has grown into a leading international NGO, delivering thousands of animals annually across Africa, Asia, South America and Eastern Europe.
The special live cargo flight - carrying 37 in-calf heifers, three bulls for the Rwandan Government National Bovine Breeding Scheme, 160 pigs, 100 goats, and 5,000 chicks - took off from Shannon Airport on a five-day mission to deliver life-changing livestock to 797 already trained and prepared rural Rwandan families still affected by the genocide.
Also on board are 5,000 doses of Bovine Semen for the Rwandan Breeding Programme run by Bóthar's sister agency Heifer International.
Almost half of the in-calf heifers were hand-reared by inmates at Shelton Abbey Prison and Loughan House Open Centre as part of their restorative justice programme.
Mr Gavin joined the Bóthar team, sponsors MSD Animal Health and volunteers at Roscrea Mart, Co Tipperary yesterday morning where the animals were brought by donor farmers ahead of their transportation to the departure gates.
The animals were loaded at Shannon into custom-built units providing comfort, safety and rest during the overnight flight.
In the midst of Dublin's championship-winning streak, Mr Gavin, a qualified pilot and Assistant Director with the Irish Aviation Authority, contacted the aid agency to offer his services in any upcoming projects.
"We are going to be visiting some of the poorest people of the world with an aid agency that is giving them a real shot at improving their lot beyond their wildest dreams," said Mr Gavin.
"I've been very impressed by what Bóthar does and very struck by the generosity of Irish farmers in donating these precious animals and Bóthar's other donors in helping to raise money to buy more," he added.
Dave Moloney, Bóthar CEO, said they were delighted with the call. "It's not often that type of thing happens in Ireland, where someone with his profile makes contact with a charity and asks to help. We were bold enough to ask him if he would be up for travelling with us on our most important airlift ever and he just said, 'yes, when does it go?'" he said.
* Hundreds of foodies, producers, visitors and locals turned out to celebrate ‘Taste of the Lakelands’ in the picturesque town of Lanesboro nestled along the banks of the River Shannon last week.
The major food festival, held in conjunction with the World Angling Championships, is believed to have brought a €500,000 cash injection to the midlands town along the Longford/Roscommon county border.
Up to 230 anglers descended on the shores of Lough Ree for the six-day extravaganza, now in its ninth year.
All eyes were on guild members from the Irish Countrywomen’s Associations of Longford and Roscommon for a spectacular ‘cook-off’ in aid of new Pieta House services that will launch in Athlone this Autumn. They also enlisted the culinary assistance of their native Rose of Tralee representatives, Aisling McNeill from Roscommon and Longford’s Caroline Doyle.
Meanwhile, the launch of this year’s W.R. Shaw Queen of the Land Festival will take place on Saturday, October 15, in the Bridge House Hotel, Tullamore at 8pm. The fun-filled festival, marking its 52nd birthday, will take place from Nov 11–13 in Tullamore.
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