Sisters Margaret Muckian and Bernadette Cunningham from Doylesfort Road are putting the final preparations in place for their two week trip to Tanzania on 1 October.
The sisters are travelling to a small town called Ifunda to volunteer with the Walser Tanzanian Charity.
“This will be my second trip and my sister’s third trip”, said Bernadette.
The charity, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, was set up by Alfons Walser, former MD at Guinness who would be well known in Dundalk for his work with the Harp brewery.
“After his retirement, Alfons and his wife travelled around Africa,” said Bernadette. “After spending a night in Ifunda and witnessing the extreme poverty Alfons decided that he wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to helping these people.”
Bernadette herself got involved with the project through her sister Margaret who used to work in the Harp brewery with Alfons and has remained friends with him since.
“We made our first trip seven years ago”, said Bernadette. “A lot of people from Dundalk are involved with the charity and most of the sponsorship of children comes from Dundalk.”
The Dundalk woman says the main aim of the charity is to educate the people and teach them how to work.
“The women do most of the work”, said Bernadette. “It can be quite infuriating as it is common to see women working in a field with a hoe in one hand, a baby strapped to her front and her back while the men are standing under a tree in the shade watching them.”
The charity provides four out of the five primary schools in the area with running water and all of them with electricity.
“When we travel over we visit the schools and see what has been happening.
“A vocational school was set up that teaches electrical work, wood work and welding. Women are also trained to use sewing machines.
“Men use their skills to make and sell benches to the schools while the women make uniforms to sell to the school. All this means that they are helping bring money into the area.
“There is also a computer room and the computor skills class is compulsory for all pupils.
“We try to take over as many old and unused laptops and things like iPads as possible when we travel .”
The charity has also started intiatives such as the Pig Project which donates sows to poor families. These families rear the sows until they have another litter which they distribute among friends and family.
“The Pig Project has been very successful since it was set up three years ago”, said Bernadette. “It was set up by the ladies committee and ensures that everyone will eventually get a pig”.
The charity has also funded the building of two dormitories, one for girls and one for boys, that the children can stay in.
“Some of the children live as far as 8km from the schools and may not have anywhere to study at home so the dormitories are really helpful for them.
“They are especially beneficial to the girls as they are at risk of being raped whilst walking to school.”
It costs €125 to sponsor a child through primary school which provides their books, uniform and food for them and their family. It costs a further €175 to sponsor them for secondary and third level education.
Anyone wishing to donate to the project can do so at Bank of Ireland, Clanbrassil Street.