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Cork Woman Set to Help Build Brighter Futures for Poor Communities in Kenya


Fiona Twomey from Newtownshandrum will travel to the Horn of Africa next month.

A WOMAN from north Cork has spoken about how the work of a small Cobh-based charity has inspired her to travel to Africa with aim of empowering local communities to build sustainable and brighter futures.

Fiona Twomey will next month travel to Kenya as part of the Brighter Communities Worldwide charity’s annual ‘Harambee’ trip.

Somewhat aptly, Harambee means ‘all pull together’, which is the official motto of Kenya.

The country is situated in the Horn of Africa, which is gripped by the worst drought it has seen in more than four decades, putting more than five million people at immediate risk of hunger.

Fiona, who works as a global retail specialist with Bord Bia, said volunteering to work overseas with a charity was something she had always wanted to do.

“When the opportunity came up to travel with Brighter Communities Worldwide in October, I kind of just went for it without over-thinking things – which is likely surprising for those who know me,” grinned Fiona.

“I know it will be a great experience and I feel very lucky to be able to do it. I really enjoy meeting and working with new people and I feel sure that gain an lot from the programme,” she added.

Founded in 2002 as Friends of Londiani, Brighter Communities Worldwide works in East Africa in partnership with a locally-led organisation of the same name in Kenya. Since its inception, the charity has expanded and developed its programmes and now work across Kericho County in Kenya with a population of almost one million people. They are also in the process of expanding their operations into other east African regions.

Roughly 95% of the people in Kericho County live in rural areas, with little or no access to basic services such electricity, clean water sanitation and healthcare.

Up to 60% of them are living below the poverty line, meaning they earn less than $1a day.

Over the past two decades Brighter Futures Worldwide has given more than 59,000 households access to health services, with results including a 92% reduction in respiratory illnesses and a more than 250% increase in the safe delivery of babies.

Their Economic Empowerment Programme has seen a 67% take up in business training projects aimed at generating new income, with the provision of education a key element of their ongoing work.

During her time in Kenya, Fiona will work alongside other volunteers on the charity’s life-skills peer education and economic empowerment programmes.

She said that priority on these programmes is given to girls and women, who undertake the bulk of unpaid work and people in other vulnerable groups such as those with disabilities.

““Brighter Communities Worldwide is quite unique in that it works in partnership with local communities in Kenya and its success is largely built on facilitating communities to determine what they need. I really like that their programmes equip local people with the skills needed to create a sustainable future, whether that be in areas of health, equality or through delivery of information to help communities to set up income generating projects,” said Fiona.

“It means that after we, the volunteers have left , the local community can continue to educate and support each other. It’s not a stop-start mission. It is this concept of partnership that Brighter Communities has excelled at, by empowering communities to achieve their goals, all the while providing support and friendship,” she added.

During the trip to Kenya Fiona hopes to visit the Bakara Agricultural College, a vitally important facility in light of the fact that many people in Kericho County rely on agriculture for their main source of income.

“The college is committed to the promotion of sustainable agriculture for rural development through education, training and a dedicated outreach programme,” said Fiona.

“I have started the Green Cert in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick so I might pick up a few useful tips on the trip to help with that too,” she added.

Fiona has busy raising thousands of Euros ahead of the trip to Kenya, recently climbing Carrauntoohil with a group of friends as part of her fundraising drive.

“Family and friends have been incredibly supportive of my trip to Kenya,” said Fiona.

“A lot of people have been interested to learn about the work of Brighter Communities Worldwide and hopefully by increasing awareness of the charity and the positive impact it has, more people might consider volunteering themselves in the future,” she added.

Source: Independent

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