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How Donkey Derby cash makes a difference in Zambia

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The Annual Mullaghmore Harvest Fair and Donkey Derby committee presenting the takings from the event to Fr. James O'Kane in Cliffoney Hall.

The Annual Mullaghmore Harvest Fair and Donkey Derby committee presenting the takings from the event to Fr. James O'Kane in Cliffoney Hall.

Secretary of the committee, Bridie Watters listening to Fr O'Kane as he addresses the meeting in Cliffoney

Secretary of the committee, Bridie Watters listening to Fr O'Kane as he addresses the meeting in Cliffoney

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The Annual Mullaghmore Harvest Fair and Donkey Derby committee presenting the takings from the event to Fr. James O'Kane in Cliffoney Hall.

This harrowing poster lines the streets heading into the district of Chainda in Zambia, where former Cliffoney priest, Fr James O'Kane SMA is currently working to change the mindset and the lives of the local African people.Among those changes in place is a new multipurpose parish centre, which will be opened within the parish of St Theresa's next year, a shanty compound wit

A young girl is pictured cowering in the corner of a room with the heading reading, "Sex with me won't cure AIDS".

This harrowing poster lines the streets heading into the district of Chainda in Zambia, where former Cliffoney priest, Fr James O'Kane SMA is currently working to change the mindset and the lives of the local African people.

Among those changes in place is a new multipurpose parish centre, which will be opened within the parish of St Theresa's next year, a shanty compound with a population of 25,000 people.

The centre, which is to replace the current Church's dilapidated building, is now under construction, and will comprise of a main hall, rooms allocated for workshops, a small oratory for weekday Mass and a parish office.

Medical Centre

A medical centre, pre-school, adult education and computer literacy classes, dress making and tailoring, hairdressing, home economics, and religious instruction will be offered at the centre while a mechanic workshop, which is currently under construction, is hoped to be opened next week.

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Fr O'Kane, project director for the new parish community centre, said that the centre would not be possible without the support of fundraising efforts in Sligo and his home county of Tyrone, which has raised funds through the Spirit of Paul McGirr charity.

Earlier this month, the eighth annual All Ireland Donkey Derby was held in the seaside village of Mullaghmore, raising over ?17,000 for the African parish.

Derby

Fr O'Kane explained that the derby was originally established in 1999, to support charities in Africa.

"It was called the All Ireland Donkey Derby and people were always asking how we managed to get the national competition to come to Mullaghmore. In fact, it's the only one in Ireland so we just replied 'it was very hard work'," smiled Fr O'Kane.

Now, for the past three years, the Donkey Derby has been helping the people of St Theresa's Parish following Fr O'Kane placement in Zambia.

UNEMPLOYMENT

He explained that the area has 80% unemployment and access to water and sanitation is grossly inadequate. Government assistance through social welfare in non-existent and the majority of people live in mud houses.

Tragically, one in five of the population have AIDS.

"This is why we are building the parish centre, so that the locals there can learn skills so that they can go out and work," said Fr O'Kane.

He added that a number of skilled professionals, including builders, teachers and doctors have already donated their time to the people of the parish by teaching their respective trades.

"The parishioners are just lovely people, who appreciate everything that you do for them," said Fr O'Kane.

And he added that such training has proved successful, with already 40 locals working on the site as labourers, where the uniform is the Tyrone GAA jersey.

"It would be great though to see some Sligo jerseys out there as well," laughed Fr O'Kane.



For more details on St Theresa's Parish, contact Fr Pat Kelly, SMA Fathers, 23 Bliss Avenue, Tenfly, NJ 07670, USA or e-mail patkellysma@gmail.com.








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