Standing on the Shoulders of the ones who went before us...
In 2008 a group of 7 men from the Benada area under the leadership of Michael Collins came to Maamba in Zambia and built a magnificent skills training workshop and offices. Six were professional builders. A further blessing was that they worked very closely with the local community and passed on their expertise.
In January 2009 the building was blessed and opened. These men were followed by four Letterfrack students, with the support of Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and their lecturer and they helped to set-up a successful woodwork training facility in Zambia in 2009. They taught valuable woodwork skills to young people in the village of Maamba.
The first cohort of students passed their trade exams in the summer of 2010 and some of them are now qualified to teach the skills programme in their village. The centre itself is now taking commercial orders and will be self-sustaining in a few years time.
GMIT’s involvement was initiated by Letterfrack lecturer, Dr Paddy Tobin, in 2008 through Sr Mary Fallon, Religious Sisters of Charity and Director of the Maamba Youth Projects Training Activities. The project received, and continues to receive, active support from GMIT management.
In March 2011 Sr Mary visited GMIT Letterfrack to personally thank the students and staff and present a beautiful work of art from Maamba in recognition of the GMIT contribution.
Such is the success of the volunteering project that the students and graduates involved, led by graduate Fiachra McInerney from Limerick (pictured), and supported by Dr Tobin, are setting up an independent charity organisation dedicated to the establishment of woodworking training centres, like Maamba, in other parts of Zambia and other African countries.
The new charity plans to continue to work with Maamba over the next few years to ensure that the Centre continues to be self-sustaining in the future. The charity will initially be run on a voluntary basis but is expected to grow and develop with the continued support and partnership of GMIT Letterfrack and its staff, students and graduates.
Pause for thought - although the Sisters of Charity have left Benada for some years the contacts between the people and the Congregation are still there. Michael Collins who organised the Benada men for the project is a past pupil of Benada and was the last Principal there. He is a cousin of Sr. Mary Bernadette Collins. Paddy Tobin, Director of Letterfrack Training Centre is a past pupil of Benada and son of the Deputy Principal when Sr. Ann Dolores O’Connor was Principal.