Tommy’s charity Christmas song links Tubber, Rwanda
A Christmas charity single has Sligo written all over it after Tommy Fleming made a 20,000km round-trip to record it.
Tommy, from Aclare, not alone travelled to Rwanda to record 'Give A Little Bit' - the 1977 hit by Supertramp - with local teenagers in support of Limerick based aid agency Bóthar's Christmas appeal but was sent on his way by local part-time farmers Frank and Ann Guest.
The appeal is focussed on widows of the horrific Rwandan genocide of 1994 and, particularly, on supporting the government's 'One Cow Per Family' programme aimed at reducing extreme rural poverty by providing every family with a cow.
The song was recorded by Tommy with students from Rwamagana High School in east Rwanda.
It is available to download from Spotify, iTunes and other online outlets via Bóthar's website www.bothar.ie
A four-part series of short videos documenting the trip will also be broadcast on Bóthar's social media platforms, started last week.
The first video in the series, which is available to watch on Bóthar's social media platforms, sees Tommy travel to meet Tubbercurry couple Frank and Ann Guest to get an understanding of how the charity works.
Frank and Ann have been donating heifers to Bóthar for 12 years that have changed the lives of recipient families in Rwanda, Abania, Romania and Kosovo.
He took time out of a busy schedule in the run up to the September recording of Voice of Hope II - the much-awaited follow-up to his Voice of Hope album, his biggest selling album to date - to travel to the tiny African nation.
Rwanda is still in recovery mode from the horrific genocide of 1994 which triggered the bloodiest 90 days in the history of the world as up to 1million people were slaughtered in a country slightly larger than Munster.
Bóthar has lifted thousands of families from poverty there with the gift of in-calf Irish dairy heifers and other food and income producing animals since it began operations in Rwanda 21 years ago and it was this work that attracted the Sligo native's attention.
"I come from a farming background as my parents were small dairy farmers so it's in my DNA.
"When I looked more into what Bóthar do, I thought my parents would just have loved this idea so I was only too delighted to travel out, see the projects and record the song," said Tommy.
"Ann and Frank gave me such a powerful insight into what it's like to be involved with Bóthar. They really brought home to me what a superb charity it really is.
"They donated and travelled to Romania while I went to Rwanda. It may be a different country but It was the same experience. Their advice to me was invaluable on this trip they are just wonderful, generous people."
Ann Guest said they decided to donate 12 years ago because they wanted to see the money they normally donated to charity go further.
"We started in 2007 and we said well we'll try it for a year or two.
"And here we are twelve years later. Our twelfth animal is ready to go now shortly.
"I used to donate through monetary donations each year. But you don't really get much of a kick from that, you give the money it's gone. I wasn't happy and I thought well we'll try this.
The first one went in 2007 and it took off from there."
Ann described their trip to Romania to visit the animals they had donated as an 'eye-opener'.
"That was an eye opener because you saw the impact they had on the ground. You become so attached to them and you get fond of them and then when they go you feel a sadness to a point, but you feel happy too. We used to be wondering how are they cared for now or what type of a life they have.
"But that I think that was the icing on the cake when we got out to Romania we saw then how well cared for they were. They adore them animals, they had them in there and out on grass and fed with hay and water. It's certainly not a holiday but you bring a lot more home from it than you do from a holiday."
For Tommy, working with the children on the song was one of his career highlights.
"I've had many, many great moments in the music industry but recording with these kids was one of the very best. They have an incredible sense of positivity despite having so little. We met them first on a Sunday, rehearsed with them on a Tuesday and on the Wednesday performed with them in front of a small crowd but an influential one as it included a number of government officials," he said.
"The kids have little English but music is a universal language. When we met them, we asked them to sing to see what they've got.
"They broke out into 'Perfect' from Ed Sheeran and we just looked at each other and said 'this is going to be fantastic'. We had so little time to prepare but they nailed it. That night we sang in Kigali with them was really, really special."
Donations for Bóthar's Christmas appeal range from €10 for a guinea fowl to €1,800 for an in-calf Irish dairy heifer and right up to €25,000 for a Bóthar Ark - enough to purchase animals to look after 85 families. For more information go to www.bothar.ie