In a letter to the Dundalk Democrat, Conor Gilligan, the chairman of a school in Cambodia in South-east Asia, has praised the work being done by Dundalk company Horseware in that country.
Conor, who helps run Romdual School in Sihanoukville, stated that Horseware and its managing director Tom McGuinness have ensured that the school has been extended and mondernised.
“I am sure you are aware that Tom McGuinness, Managing Director of Horseware Ireland, has qualified for the World Equestrian Games and the European Championships”, began Conor.
“Tom and the whole Horseware team are a credit to Dundalk and Ireland. They employ many people in Dundalk, China, Cambodia and The USA.
“But there is another field where Horseware are real champions that your readers might not be so aware of. Horseware do a tremendous amount of work here in Cambodia, though I don’t know about all the worthy projects they support here because they do it quietly and without fuss.
“I am part of a small group here in Sihanoukville Cambodia, 'Friends of Romdual School' – which helps support a small school in a really deprived area near Ream National Park.
“This group comprises of expats from Ireland, the UK and Australia and we do our best to improve the lives of these rural children.
“Horseware Ireland have given us tremendous support since this group was formed more than six years ago.
“Horseware’s support has enabled us to build two new concrete buildings comprising of four classrooms, replacing the termite ridden wooden structures. We were also able to build a concrete wall around the entire school grounds to keep snakes out, as this is a real and present danger to the children.
“The manager of Horseware Cambodia, Gerry Rafferty along with his assistant Gareth Herr, two great ambassadors for Horseware and Dundalk have been helping us in so many ways it is hard to recall everything.
“They made uniforms for the children many times, supplied shoes and made their medical team available when we had medical issues.
“As well as the above-mentioned support that Gerry and Gareth gave us, they also paid for the electric installation in the new classrooms and fuel for the generator from their own pockets. We have recently been connected to the electric grid.
“Without Horseware’s most generous support we would have only have been able to carry out a fraction of the improvements to this school.
“Words cannot express our gratitude to the whole company for their generosity.
“Another one of Horseware’s support projects in Sihanoukville Cambodia is; AllKids, an Australian NGO who have an educational centre for local children. AllKids also have a day-care centre for children that live on the nearby dump where families scavenge to survive. AllKids collect the younger children every day and bring them to the centre where they are washed, given a change of clothes, their dirty clothes laundered, given nourishing food and medical treatment. Sadly, at the end of the day these children have to be returned to the dump.
“It is very difficult for any family to leave the dump as they are in debt to the dump's owners.
“When Horseware held a board meeting in Cambodia in 2015 they had a tour of some of the projects they support to see the progress. I was honoured to join them on the tour. They didn’t just go to nice places, they went on a tour of the dump to see the horrific conditions where families live.
“A dump in Ireland is not such a nice place to visit, but in Cambodia with the temperatures in the mid to high 30s, infestations of flies and rats and a smell that would turn the strongest stomach, and disease running rife, not the typical tourist attraction, but all of the men and women on the board came to the dump.
“The Dundalk company have built four halfway houses behind the AllKids school for families that managed to get away from the dump. The can stay in the house for about a year.
“They are educated and every effort is made to get them jobs or set them up in a small self-employed project so that they can try to lead a normal life. The success rate is very good and Horseware employs some of the older former dump children in the factory here in Cambodia.
“Another project the company supports is M’Lop Tapang, another great N G O here in Sihanoukville. M’Lop Tapang run by co-founder Maggie Eno MBE, a former nurse from England.
“This group does fantastic work and has about 3.500 street children under their care. They support very poor families in so many ways, Medical Centres, Schools, Training Centres and much more they have a 24-hour hotline for any child that may be in danger.
“They also have a social service trying to reunite families. M’Lop Tapang have many other projects ongoing.
“I am not a great fan of NGO’s, because so many spend so much on administration etc., but AllKids and M’Lop Tapang are exceptional.
“I must also mention that we get great support from families and friends in Ireland and the UK who donate and fundraise for us.”