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Star-backed fundraising students bringing better life to orphans of Africa

A group of students from Portmarnock Community School have returned from South Africa where they helped out with the vital work of an Irish charity.

The group touched down in Dublin Airport after their trip to support the work of Friends In Ireland, the charity founded by RTE star Marian Finucane and her husband John Clarke.

It is the fifth year in a row that the school has embarked on such a trip, which was overseen by teacher Niall Fitzgerald.

During their trip, the students were involved in helping with the building work on facilities. In addition they brought medical and dentistry expertise with them.

Among the 35 transition-year students on the trip was Thomas Whelan (17), son of RTE presenter Marty Whelan. And Marty's wife Maria was one of the parents who went to volunteer on the trip.

Marty said that he was thrilled at the success of the group's trip. "They also brought things with them like nappies and clothes, giving practical help," he said.

The group arrived home after a 14-hour flight out of Durban, via London, on Saturday morning.

The rewarding work being done by the volunteers was being filmed by an independent production company, Animo Television.

Friends In Ireland works in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal provinces of South Africa assisting communities to care for and support orphans and vulnerable children through community-development structures. Together they are working to improve the wellbeing and health status of HIV Aids affected children.

Every euro that is donated goes into the charity's accounts to the 100pc usage of the charity. The Friends In Ireland's programme is reaching over 400 orphan and vulnerable children of South Africa.

Its work sees it involved in a whole host of areas. Through its partners, it support children in non-residential settings by developing facilities such as preschools; creche facilities; and drop-in centres, hand in hand with each community based organisations.

In addition, it has established foster homes, into which orphans with no existing family support structures can be placed, under legal guardianship of a foster mother.

And it pays for regular meals to each child and the establishment of food gardens at Friends In Ireland's programme centres.