'Drive for Life' heads for stunning Gap of Dunloe

An incredible charity story continues to unfold in North Kerry as the Drive for Life prepares to set out this weekend on a 25km trek through the county's most stunning scenery.

Drive for Life is the 2019 campaign being spearheaded by Listowel man Willie Keane and his sons Billy, Don and Patrick and their countless friends from the Kostal plant in Abbeyfeale to Kieran Moloney's walking group in Listowel.

It's the latest chapter in Willie Keane's extraordinary efforts on behalf of the Medical Missionary of Mary (MMM) Sisters and their vital work in Tanzania. As a direct result of Willie's campaigning over the past decades, more than €250,000 has been raised for the rural poor of the Arusha and Nangwa districts in the massive African country.

That money has been used to build a hospital, a school, several projects delivering clean water to numerous remote villages as well as a medical centre in one of the remotest parts of the country.

Now, Drive for Life is hoping to raise enough money to secure a jeep for the medical staff of that centre.

"We are now focusing on the Nangwa district which is one of the most remote areas in all of Tanzania and the reason we are focusing on Nangwa is due to the fact that it has the highest mortality rate of anywhere in the country. The jeep is absolutely vital to the work of the medics as it will enable them to get across the rugged country and deliver vital healthcare," Billy Keane said.

Just two years ago the Keanes helped to complete the Kostal Project 2017. Backed by Billy's Abbeyfeale employer with the support of hundreds of his Kostal colleagues, they raised money for an innovative water system that has become an absolute lifeline for so many across both districts previously forced to walk miles and miles for dirty water.

Billy explained that the Irish and Tanzanian governments are now working together to help roll out similar projects so impressed as they are with the result of the Keane's labours.

Now, Drive for Life has set-up a GoFundMe page to help secure the jeep and save lives, as Willie explained:

"We are supporting the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Tanzania, Africa with the purchase of a new jeep for a health outreach program to remote villages in Northern Tanzania. Funds raised will also help with the running costs of the programme.

"Due to lack of ante-natal clinics in this remote area some women have difficulty during child birth, and some die in the process of giving birth.

"Since 2015 the MMM health outreach programme has treated 31,146 children in this remote area that has a population of 105,065. This health outreach programme provides health education, vaccination of the children, ante-natal advice and health care before referral for specialist care to the people who are mostly pastoral Maasai. "Tanzania has a population of over 60 million with over 120 different tribes," Willie explained.

Listowel man Kieran Moloney - who travelled to Tanzania with the Keanes a few years ago - is urging everyone to support the charity. He helped organise the Black Valley Challenge in 2017, which raised €40,000 towards the work of the MMM.

"Until you've been there and seen the effect of the rains on the roads you've no idea how vital a jeep is to the work. The roads literally get washed away," Kieran explained.

Check out the Drive for Life GoFundMe page to donate. Registration for the walk is between 8.30 and 9am on Saturday, May 18.