Dubs GAA star visits the slums of Nairobi

By William O'Connor

BALLYBODEN St Enda’s and Dublin GAA football star Michael Darragh Macauley was announced this week as a Concern Worldwide ambassador to mark its official charity partnership with the GAA for 2018.

The five-time All-Ireland winning star took time out over the Easter break to visit Concern’s programmes in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya as part its campaign to raise awareness of the UN Global Goals.

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Michael Darragh Macauley reading letters from Scoil Maelruain to the Kenyan children

The Dublin midfielder saw first-hand how Concern is improving the lives of children through its education programmes by visiting M.M Chandaria school, where he met with pupils and even helped with a distribution of ‘back to school’ kits, which provides slum children with the necessary essentials to see them through the school term.

There was much excitement when Michael Darragh, a primary school teacher, brought letters from his own pupils at Scoil Maelruain Junior in Tallaght for the Kenyan children to read.

He also caused quite a stir after lunch when, armed with GAA jerseys and footballs, he invited the pupils to participate in an impromptu Gaelic football training session, which the children enjoyed immensely.

Speaking about his experience, Michael Darragh (31) said: “It’s been amazing to interact with the children who live in the slums and to learn about their school and home life.

“These kids live in extremely poor conditions and you can see how much they value their education and want to learn as much as possible.

“Education is a privilege, which they appreciate dearly and the work Concern is doing to support these children is amazing. They provide them with school kits, uniforms and a hot meal, which for some is the only meal they will have all day, so I feel very humbled to have seen this incredible work in action.”

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The Tallaght teacher visited an informal education centre in Mukuru slum and observed one of Concern’s ‘Community Conversations’ meetings taking place, which empowers the local people to make collective decisions on everyday social issues such as keeping children in school or accessing quality basic health, education, water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Michael Darragh also met with Concern beneficiaries, who carve out an existence by picking rubbish at Dandora Landfill site, which sprawls 30 acres and is one of the largest dumps in the world.

He added: “Visiting Dandora dump was a real eye-opener for me and one I’ll never forget.

“People were picking rubbish such as plastic and bones to sell for cash and many live next to the site in extremely poor conditions.

“They are exposed to all sorts of toxins and many suffer from respiratory and skin problems.

“It was amazing to see how Concern supports the beneficiaries of Dandora by offering them access to health services and providing schemes such as cash transfers to help them graduate out of poverty.”

Concern, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year, is honoured to be chosen as one of the GAA's five charity partnerships for 2018, which was announced at Croke Park in Dublin on Monday.

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