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Sligo GAA Star’s Week of Tree Planting With Local Communities in Kenya

The universal language of sport built bridges that spanned cultures and thousands of miles, when a group of some of Ireland’s best known GAA stars travelled to Kenya with Self Help Africa – including Sligo’s Pat Spillane.

Pat’s trip was part of the Plant the Planet Games initiative to plant one million trees and raise awareness of the impact of climate change on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

The week-long journey included showpiece exhibition matches in Nairobi between the visiting stars and Kenyan Premier League football team AFC Leopards, as well training sessions for the visiting players with some of Kenya’s elite long distance runners, and visits to Self Help Africa projects in the country.

The visiting group – which included hurling, Gaelic football and camogie players – planted trees during their visit to local communities, and were the special guests at a reception hosted by Ireland’s Ambassador to Kenya, Caitríona Ingoldsby.

The players met Ireland’s missionary priest, Brother Colm O’Connell who has been described as ‘the godfather of distance running in Kenya’, and visited non-profit ball manufacturer Alive and Kicking, and projects being run by Irish charity, Brighter Communities Worldwide.

The Plant the Planet Games were organised for the second successive year by former Galway dual player Alan Kerins’ Warriors for Humanity, and the trip was also supported by the Gaelic Players’ Association, and sponsors Optimum Nutrition. Team gear for their trip was sponsored by McKeever Sports and match day sustainability sponsor were Kerry Group.

Speaking of his experience in Kenya, Pat Spillane said: “It was a magic week in Kenya. An incredible experience travelling from Nairobi to Iten, visiting community projects and planting trees as part of the 2023 Plant the Planet Games squad. The work being carried out in Africa by organisations such as Self Help Africa, Brighter Communities Worldwide and Alive and Kicking is phenomenal and it was a privilege to see it first hand. Thank you Alan Kerins and the Gaelic Players’ Association for bringing us together and making it happen.”

Reflecting on the week, Alan Kerins said: “It was another amazing Plant the Planet Games, from the match in Nairobi, tree planting with the communities in Iten, running with the Kenyan athletes, soccer matches against local communities, seeing the wonderful work that Self Help Africa do on the ground. That’s really special, tree planting with the communities. It dawned on many of the players – this is the impact of our work. Meeting families who are going to benefit from these trees long after they are gone.

Planting trees with children, who will reap the rewards of these trees. The sacrifices and the challenges of raising the money, it was all worthwhile. To see the connection between Irish and Kenyan people, it was very special. The players are exemplary role models. They should be very proud of themselves, and we should be very proud of them.”

The Plant the Planet Games GAA players have collectively fundraised to plant one million trees with Self Help Africa and leave a legacy for generations. To support Pat’s fundraising efforts and make a donation, visit: https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/PatSpillane

Source: Independent

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