Tralee’s grandmother on volunteering in Kenya: “It completely changed my outlook”
A grandmother from Tralee spoke this week about the wonderful benefits of volunteering abroad, crediting her work in Kenya with breathtaking effect and changing her outlook on life forever.
Joan O’Regan, 2, who lives in Ballymullen in Tralee, was recounting last week the time she spent volunteering in Kenya’s Kericho County with the Irish non-governmental organization (NGO) Brighter Communities Worldwide .
Joan, a retired French teacher who taught at St Michael’s College, Listowel, began her volunteer journey when, while on vacation in Nairobi to visit her son, Jack, she met fortuitous with the co-founder of the charity association Maria Kidney of Liège.
“I was visiting my son Jack who lives in Nairobi and during the bus ride from the airport I chatted with this very lively and bubbly Corkonian! She was full of life and energy and regaled me with stories about the many projects the charity has started in Kericho County. This bus trip flew; I was so interested in the different stories of their health, education and income generation programs and let me tell you, once you meet Maria Kidney you won’t forget her! I met her again at an event at the Irish Kenyan Society and she persuaded me to volunteer,” Joan said.
Taking the plunge, Joan and some of her friends from the Tralee Mountain Club went to an area in Kenya called Ndubusat where they helped develop the sustainable tourism project there, Joan said she loved it so much work that she returned to again in 2019.
“I went back three years ago and helped facilitate the life skills classes. These classes are basic skills that people can use in their daily lives and, most importantly, pass on to others.” For example, I have seen how building small smokeless stoves makes such a difference in people’s lives. It’s not huge in our world, it’s monumental in theirs, it’s life changing,” she said.
“It was difficult for people to take the life skills courses, for example, they had to take time off from work, which was not an easy task. They had to get to the site, which was very difficult for them because they had a lot of ground to cross and in most cases they had to walk for miles. However, they showed great determination and a thirst for learning. It was the common thread of all my relationships with the people there, their thirst for learning and knowledge. It is remarkable and so refreshing. They’re so immersed in the community that it means the world to them,” Joan continued.
“They have so little but yet they can smile, they can laugh, they are a happy people. It’s beautiful to see and it has completely changed my outlook on things. I’m going with the flow now, I no longer have so much fear. It’s really a great freedom and a freedom that I am very grateful for, ”she added.
Continuing, Joan revealed that her sister has started volunteering now and she urged anyone who was thinking of giving volunteering a chance, go for it and you won’t regret it.
Finally, Joan said the charity’s annual Kenya Ball on November 12 at the Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork was always a great social occasion and, above all, a very important part of their fundraising efforts.
For more information about the charity or to donate, visit https://www.brightercommunities.org/