Camogie under African skies
Camogie stars and Childfund ambassadors, Wexford's Mags D'Arcy and Aoife Murray of Cork, are just back from Ethiopia where they played what could be East Africa's first ever camogie match with some enthusiastic local girls.
'Apprehensive at first, a 30-second tutorial was all that was needed for these girls to swing into action, literally! They embraced every single swing, block, tackle, never a complaint just utter excitement to get on the ball and make the crowd cheer,' said Mags.
'The enthusiasm naturally overflowed into the surrounding crowd as their fellow students and community where as vocal as any September day in Croke Park! I truly walked away with the affirmation that we have the best game in the world on our little island. When the sport goes global, these Ethiopian girls will definitely be waiting in the long grass for us!' said Mags.
For both women, the trip provided a unique opportunity to visit a rural African township and see first-hand the work ChildFund does in developing countries like Ethiopia to help children and their families. Over a hectic, action-packed week there were many stand-out experiences that will live long in the memory.
Mags said the visit was 'beyond memorable'.
'It was a lifelong opportunity for us to get there and play camogie in Ethiopia. It was a really special overwhelming and humbling experience,' Mags told this newspaper after the trip in support of ChildFund's Deam Bike campaign.
'It was a hectic few days and we got so much covered and saw where funds donated to Childfund go. Sometimes you may be dubious about giving money to certain charities and it's nice that you see exactly where there charity money is going,' she said.
Mags said he initial impression of rural Ethiopia was to marvel at the people's resolve to operate their daily operations and livelihoods with minimal resources available.
'The constant work ethic of the people both in the city and out in the programmed area shows the strong values the people of Ethiopia withhold themselves too.'
'The first time I met my sponsored child was incredible. Being surrounded by Subontu and her mother, I really never stopped smiling! Even with the language barrier, the gratitude which I received cemented the great care and services ChildFund Ireland directly provide to Subontu, her mother and her community.
'The impact of a small donation truly is direct and evident, and it's hard to believe what I've gifted by simply giving up two coffees a week, shameful to think when I say it out loud!
'What struck me about life in rural Ethiopia versus Wexford is that community collaboration is very similar to home, in that neighbours help each other by whatever means possible.
'However on the flip side, the lack of transport, shared housing space and daily community markets mean that everybody (from all age demographics) within the community engage with each other on a more regular basis. Community interaction is a fundamental part of their days.' Mags said that when they first two girls as part of the Dream Bike campaign 'I saw an automatic sense of empowerment from the girls - they literally grew two foot taller after receiving their bikes!... what blew me away was the community's excitement of seeing the girls getting to grips with the bikes. The programme area sets huge value on education; therefore the importance of the Dream Bikes is massive to enable these girls get to and from school in a safe manner.' Childfund Ireland and the Camogie Association, which jointly run the Dream Bike campaign, have a core ambition of giving vulnerable girls in developing countries to get to school safely and on time.