Trip aims to raise awareness of climate change and plant one million trees in Kenya
MILFORD’s Ashling Thompson is among a quartet of Cork camogie stars who have swapped their hurley’s for spades and travelled to Africa in a bid to highlight the impact that climate change is having on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
Thompson, Libby Coppinger, Orla Cronin and Laura Tracey were among a 50-strong contingent of well-known GAA sportsmen and women taking part in the week-long charity mission to Kenya.
Organised by former Galway dual-player Alan Kerins’ ‘Warriors for Humanity’ in conjunction with the Gaelic Players Association and Irish development charity Self-Help Africa, the trip included a series of GAA matches in Nairobi dubbed the ‘Plant the Planet Games’.
That billing could not have been more apt as the group is collectively aiming to raise €350,000 through sponsorship, which will be used to plant a million trees in Africa in support of Self-Help Africa’s effort to combat the effects of climate change on small-scale farming communities.
Speaking last weekend on the RTE ‘Sunday Sport’ radio show RTE radio Alan Kerins said he had been working in Africa for the past 17-years and it had always been his ambition to bring an inter-county ‘All-Stars’ game there.
“Not only is this a historic trip it will also leave a great legacy as the trees we plant will have a huge impact on climate change. More than that the communities that receive the trees will own them and they will be trained by Self-Help Africa to live off them. They will become cash crops, food crops, shelter belts and will rehabilitate degraded soil,” said Kerins.
He said that during the trip the group have also been taking part sports sessions with children, tree planting days visits to aid projects being implemented by Self Help Africa in Kenya.
A highlight of the trip will be visiting Brother Colm O’Connell the Mallow-born missionary and internationally acclaimed athletics coach dubbed ‘the Godfather of Kenyan running.
“We will be running with some of the Kenyan athletes and visit the school where brother Colm trained world and Olympic champions,” said Kerins
Speaking on the same programme Ashling Thompson said she enjoyed the experience of refereeing during the ‘Plant the Planet Games’.
“There’s a first for everything. I loved the experience of having control and power. The whistle was in my hands for once, so it was lovely to have an insight into what its like to be a referee. I laid down the law in the beginning and to be fair to them all the players very good,” she said.
She said that being part of the trip was an unbelievable and life-changing experience.
“Today alone, just taking a second to look around, its just amazing. You don’t know how fortunate you are until you see what life is like out here for yourself. We have been playing out in the fields with kids who do not have any shoes and yet they are so full of life, so happy,” said Thompson.
“To see the poverty here is really eye-opening and I feel so lucky to be a part of this trip and to have this incredible experience. It is something that will change you as a person. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and I am really delighted to be here and be part of something that will make such a huge difference to the lives of so many people,” she added.
For more information about the trip and to donate to the cause visit www.selfhelpafrica.org.