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Ugandan children enjoy Roscrea water

Thursday, 20 July 2017

TRIBUNE READERS might recall the inspiring story of two sisters from Roscrea who featured in a series of articles earlier this year relaying their work running a primary school in rural Uganda - much of which has been funded by people from Roscrea.

Sisters Mona and Eileen Maher, who moved to Uganda in 1970 and '72 respectively, have always maintained strong links to Roscrea, where their parents Kathleen and Toby Maher were involved in the social and farming life of the town.

Their brother and renowned stonemason Tim Maher and his wife Kathleen have been part of Comhaltas in Roscrea for many years and their nephew Tadhg Maher is a well-known teacher and accomplished musician and performer in Roscrea.

It's a remarkable achievement and testimony to the people of Roscrea to have furnished the first classroom and bought books and uniforms for the children of Coloma Primary School. Beds for the dormitory were purchased with funds from Roscrea and many girls attending the school have learned about the town and its people, where the school has a 'Roscrea Room.'

Several people from Roscrea have visited the school, including rugby star Seamus Dennison, Michael Thompson, Tadhg Maher and Louise Hickey. Ann and Noel Murray from Cloghan and Birr have also visited Coloma Primary School and Reverend Janet White Spunner has visited Sisters Mona and Eileen in Uganda.

In Uganda both women are driven by the belief that education is the key to hope and success for the children the Roscrea sisters have worked tirelessly for the empowerment of women and girls and to create a better standard of living.

The scourge of poverty has gripped rural Uganda for decades and competing with tense political landscapes, poor infrastructure and complex logistics, Sisters Mona and Eileen have achieved the impossible for many people and made a great difference in their lives.

In 2010 they considered retiring, but an opportunity arose for them to work with the administration team of a new primary boarding school for girls and seven years on the school is thriving - thanks to the support and contributions of many people from Roscrea, Birr and surrounding areas.

It's a remarkable story that brought two women from Roscrea to Uganda - who had received their primary education in Clonlisk National School and later attended the now closed down Sacred Heart Convent in Roscrea.

Since the early 1970s, when Eileen and Mona first went to Uganda, Roscrea people have been very supportive of their missionary work through prayer, by communication and through financial help - a fact Sisters Eileen and Mona are very grateful for.

One of the biggest problems faced in Uganda is a clean and potable water supply and last February Roscrea Comhaltas held a fundraising concert in Roscrea's Racket Hall to raise funds to alleviate the problem.

In May thee children of Coloma Primary School returned to school for the second term to find two brand new and full to the brim rain water tanks, capable of storing 10,000 litres each.

"Thanks to the people of Roscrea and to Comhaltas, who held a fund raising Concert in Racket Hall in February, these tanks were bought and installed at Coloma Primary School. It was a blessing that during the school holiday in May there was heavy rainfall and so the tanks which are attached to a dormitory were filled and the children were amazed and happy to find running water on tap for the new term," Sr Mona writes.

"In order to conserve the water the children do not have free use of it. Each child has her own container and once a day she fills three litres which is the amount to be used for the whole day for bathing, washing, and drinking. Being a boarding school it is not very much, but the next rains are not expected until the end of August," she explains.

Every drop of water is precious and after bathing and washing clothing the water is collected and used to water the vegetable plants and fruit trees.

"On behalf of the school administration of Coloma Primary School I thank you, my friends, and friends of the school for this great gift of water to the children. In many homes in Uganda people walk miles to collect water and in the dry season it is a serious problem.

"Over my more than 40 years in Uganda, I have seen a huge change in the climate - the temperatures have increased and the rainfall had decreased considerably and with more violent storms. Wind was almost unheard of but now during the dry seasons there are strong winds with severe drying effects," Sr Mona writes.

"The dry seasons are longer and the wet seasons shorter. Water is the greatest environmental challenge to be faced by the country and with a population of over 40 million and growing, one can only hope for positive environmental change for the future," Sr Mona said.

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