Verteran chairty volunteer Karen McArdle from Dundalk was inl Nairobi, Kenya last week to hand over St Catherines primary school to the children of Mukuru Slum.
Karen is a Niall Mellon Township Trust volunteer .
Due to the attacks in Westgate, Nairobi, the building blitz was cancelled however, the buildings works went ahead with local Kenyan workers and Karen along with 15 others visited the school to celebrate the handover.
She is part of a committee to help run the school along with the Sisters of Mercy in Nairobi.
Constructed by the new Mellon Educate arm of the charity, St Catherine’s school has 1,300 pupils drawn from Mukuru slum – which is home to some 600,000 people living in some of the poorest living conditions in Kenya.
Karen said “It was a humbling experience going to Nairobi, to see the work that Mellon Educate put into building their first school for the children in the Mukuru Slum.
“Never has a school been more needed. It will take education to lift these children from the abject poverty they are surrounded by and I am proud to be a part of the team working with Mellon Educate and the Sisters of Mercy in Nairobi to help run the school efficiently. I have to thank all the people from Dundalk who have supported me in fundraising. Through their help I know without a shadow of doubt that many of these children will now have the opportunity to go further and study to be doctors, nurses, lawyers and turn their dream into a reality.”
The school was officially opened last Friday by charity founder Niall Mellon. It was built in less than six months – an achievement made all the more remarkable given the cancellation of a building blitz trip for 350 Irish volunteers in October over security concerns in the aftermath of the Westgate Mall attack the previous month.
Niall Mellon described the efforts to get the St Catherine’s built as a “triumph of construction over destruction” and said the 100-strong local Kenyan workforce had “performed miracles” to get the school finished on time.
St Catherine’s has 25 classrooms and almost 1,300 pupils aged from 4-14. It also provides meals for its children, some of whom are orphans and many of whom don’t get enough to eat at home.
Previously, the school – which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy – had been housed in a collection of shack classrooms with dirt floors, corrugated iron walls and as many as 70 pupils in each class sweltering in temperatures that often topped 40C.