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In brief: Broadcaster Davis calls on volunteers to help build school for blind children

TV personality Derek Davis has called on skilled and unskilled volunteers to bring a happy ending to a heartbreaking situation in Kenya.

He is spearheading the search for 30 volunteers between the ages of 20 and 68 to give up 10 days to travel to Mombasa next January as part of the 'Building for Hope Project' to erect a new school for blind children.

"The blind children of Linkoni are in dire need of our help," said Davis. "Some of these children have been left by their families and are currently living in three dorms, sleeping 180 children. They sleep up to three to a bed, have no personal belongings, very poor sanitary facilities, no running water in the showers and once lessons are over in the afternoon they are left outside in the sun in the blistering heat with no activity programme or entertainment," the broadcaster added.

The project involves a 15,000 sq ft building which will have residential accommodation for 189 children, incorporating a special care unit.

The teams of volunteers will begin travelling to Mombasa in January, but 30 more are needed to bring the group up to full strength.

"Each volunteer must raise €3,000 to cover the cost of flights, accommodation, food, insurance and the purchase of all materials for the project. The accommodation provided is of high quality and provided at low cost from supportive local hoteliers who understand the plight of the children," said project coordinator Olive Halpin.

Contact Olive Halpin at (087) 699-4599 or through the charity website, www.buildingofhope.org

Irish, Lebanese armies in exercises

IRISH peacekeeping soldiers and the Lebanese Army have opened fire on targets at sea off the coast of Lebanon in joint exercises.

The live-fire exercises involving various weapons including artillery, machine guns and armoured vehicles happened a kilometre from the headquarters of the United National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Naquora, south Lebanon.

The exercise, codenamed 'Neptune Thunder', also involved elements from the French, Indonesian, and Spanish forces with UNIFIL.

Irish troops have their own artillery support in the form of 120mm heavy mortars while machine guns and grenade launchers were used from Mowag-armoured vehicles.

UNIFIL said the exercise was aimed at improving the skills and expertise of the battle groups.

Around 440 Irish soldiers are serving with the 104 battalion in south Lebanon. Their role includes assisting the Lebanese armed forces, monitoring the ceasefire, extensive patrolling and ensuring humanitarian access to the civilian population.

On show for the first time with UNIFIL during the exercise were new French Army Caesar 155mm artillery guns mounted on trucks.

Daughter to help honour O'Connor

Liadain O'Donovan, daughter of famed writer Frank O'Connor, will be the special guest at a seminar titled "Frank O'Connor: A Man of Many Voices" at UCC on Friday. A film of O'Connor speaking about his life will be followed by dramatic readings from his stories.

The celebrations will finish with a roundtable discussion featuring Edna O'Brien, Professor Colm Kearney, Eoghan Harris and Professor Alan Titley, which will form a section of a six-part radio documentary.

The O'Connor event is part of the Cork International Short Story Festival. Sessions are open to the public. Contact Dr Hilary Lennon on (0214) 905-015 or email hlennon@ucc.ie.

Residents take their fight to council

In the ongoing battle with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council over parking in the town, local councillors have been invited to meet the re-invigorated Dun Laoghaire Community Association at a special briefing in The Eblana Club, Dun Laoghaire, tomorrow at 8pm, where an update will be presented on the parking situation and the Residents Parking Permits campaign.

Sunday Independent