For local students who have experienced the stark need in Uganda, it is matched for personal impact only by the remarkable generosity of the wider Dromore community.
Come April next year, some 20-plus Dromore High School pupils hope to join their ranks, thanks to the school’s ongoing efforts on behalf of the community of Jandira, a remote area south of Kampala, with whom it forged links around five years ago.
Next year’s trip will be the third by Dromore High School pupils and staff as part of a project still dear to the heart of recently retired principal John Wilkinson.
“The sort of things we were involved in were painting and upgrading the local buildings, andbringing out educational resources for the teachers.
“We bought and cleared about seven acres of land for them because the school is trying to become self-sustainable in terms of producing food to feed the children in school.”
Two schools - ‘Light for All’ and ‘Source of Light’ - are involved in the project, between them delivering primary and secondary education.
For many pupils - a significant number of orphans among them - the food they receive during school hours will be their main meal of the day.
Mr Wilkinson said: “When I first went to the primary school they were having their break and I noticed one wee kid scurrying around on the floor and all she had for her break was the dirty crumbs that other kids had dropped.
“The food that’s being produced for the children was being prepared in what could best be described as a dark, dirty hut with a big boiler in it. The children were coming down with dirty, plastic buckets to get this gruel for lunch.
“At the same time we were using their local toilet facilities, really a hole in the ground - they call it the long drop.
“On occasions it has been known for young people to have fallen into these, so what we want to focus on this time is construction of a new kitchen and development of toilet facilities.”
“There is a huge Christian ethos driving the project and this is being carried on by Mr Ian McConaghy, principal of the high school.”
For Mr Wilkinson there can be no underestimating the impact of a trip to Jandira on those who undertake it.
“It changes their lives completely,” he said, “and they would say as much. Some of the big boys were brought to their knees when they saw what was going on out there.”
Meanwhile, fundraising is under way ahead of next year’s trip. The young people making the journey will be financing themselves and all money raised will go to work on the ground.
Said Mr Wilkinson. “Our main sponsor is MK Units , a local kitchen manufacturer, and they, along with other businesses and commercial enterprises, have given us a really good start in terms of being able to fund these projects.
“We couldn’t do this without the support of the local community and we are indebted to them for it.”
Next up in terms of fundraising events is a previously reported Golf Classic at Edenmore Golf Club on June 12.
“We would value the support of local golfers,” said Mr Wilkinson, “and they can book a fourball through the school.
“It promises to be a really good day, with significantly good prizes, again many donated by the local community.
“Even though people can’t go themselves out to Uganda, through helping with this golf day they can contribute to a better lifestyle and opportunities for young people out in the Jandira community.”