BY JACKIE KEOGH
IN Tanzania, albinos are discriminated against and often killed or mutilated, their body parts sold to witch doctors for use in making potions believed to bring good fortune and wealth.
Bantry’s Padraig O’Sullivan would rather tell a much happier story of his most recent visit to Moshi in Tanzania – a place he has been visiting for the last ten years for the purposes of supporting the Sisters of Kilimanjaro.
‘When we – myself and my friend Pat Harte – started going out we were initially involved with the hospital and helped it financially, but over the years we got involved in a variety of projects because no matter where you go, there is a glaring need for assistance.’
Over the last ten years, they have helped to fund part of St Joseph’s Hospital in Moshi and a couple of schools – including a schoolroom for Massai children – but last October Padraig and Pat became aware of the St Francis School and Orphanage for Abled and Disabled Children.
‘One of the American doctors we met in the hospital mentioned it and we resolved to go and see the conditions,’ said Padraig, who was happy to find that the Albino children living in the orphanage live in relative safety.
However, because of their condition many of these children become totally blind and have a greater risk of developing skin cancer. Albinism is caused by a defect in one of the several genes that produce or distribute melanin (natural pigment). This causes extremely pale skin and hair. It also causes eyesight problems as the eyes are sensitive to light. The school and orphanage was started in 2002 with 20 children, of whom ten were disabled, but now the school has 305, which includes 150 disabled children.
Of these children – who range in ages from nine months up to 15 – 45 are deaf and dumb; 32 are blind; six are physically disabled and 67 of the children are Albino.
‘There I met Sr Mary, the founder and director, who made a direct appeal for funding to help complete a dining hall and kitchen because, believe it or not, the 305 children actually eat while sitting on the floor.
‘There are no tables and chairs. But what there is, in the middle of school grounds, is a partially built structure – now all it needs are windows, doors, a floor, a roof, and the requisite tables and chairs.
‘My hope is to raise €15,000 to help complete a new dining hall and kitchen to cater for the every increasing numbers of children being cared for, with the balance being raised by the community in Moshi.
‘As Sr Mary explained to me the children are prone to illness and some of that comes from their unhygienic eating conditions, so by this time next year, we hope it will be completed.’
Raising money is never an easy task, but Padraig has an advantage that others don’t have. He is not only well known in Bantry, having served as the very popular manager of the local credit union for 35 years, he is also very well liked.
He has also roped his daughters Lorraine and Sarah into his Tanzanian project – and they are showing every signs as being as committed to giving back albeit on an international rather than local level. ‘We do what we can do, and we give what we can give,’ said Padraig, who can be contacted on 087 6542109. His friends at Bantry Credit Union have a special Tanzanian account open in the branch.