A life changing experience

Posted on: 7th July, 2014

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

As part of his prize for winning the SelfHelp Africa Science for Development Award at the National BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2013, Fergus Jayes, (17), a sixth year in Clonakilty Community College, travelled to Uganda in conjunction with a school study with SelfHelp Africa in February 2014.

Fergus’ goal was to field test a solar powered fridge, which he invented with two other students, and outline its efficiency in a real life scenario, possibly seriously enhancing the consumption of safe stored food and storage of medicinal supplies. Fergus speaks about his experience in Africa and how the trip affected his outlook on life.

IMAGE ABOVE: Fergus Jayes (wearing sunglasses) pictured in Uganda.

The first thing you experience once the plane doors open might not be the most expected occurrence; the overwhelming stench of years and years of burned fabric, dead wood and all manners of items. You can only wonder what you’ve got yourself into, as the first step into the unknown is always the hardest. Africa’s beauty is matched only by it’s danger, was our coordinators message.

As we hurtled towards our first hotel in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, we must have locked eyes with over a thousand school children stumbling on the side of the road. I wish we could describe the looks we shared. Their eyes shimmered with desire. They desired to see from our eyes, learn about our world, experience just a taste of it. I had won this trip for my invention of a solar powered fridge along with two others who were unfortunately unable to attend. We amassed our idea through our one goal: If we can’t give them our world, then we must strive to make theirs more similar. I was truly hell bent on succeeding by field testing our fridge, and making a difference like SelfHelp Africa has done on so many occasions in previous years.

At the SelfHelp Africa office in Kampala, I was delighted to learn the fridge worked perfectly when I tested it. I had proven the simplest ideas could make the biggest differences.

It was shortly after we left the city, that we encountered the first sign of poverty. As traffic had begun to halt, I looked over to a ravaged sidewalk. Lying there was a girl possibly my own age, yet the way her limbs moved so feebly suggested a life span beyond what I imagined. In her arms were folds of mud-stricken blankets from which the cries of an infant could be heard. She shifted unsteadily, and then ambled towards our jeep. Hand outstretched, mumbling incoherent words, she pleaded with us indignantly. She looked me in the eye for a brief second, and I recoiled as if stung. The driver who was clearly acquainted with this scenario, calmly put up the window and drove off. The jeep was eerily quiet, I hadn’t moved a muscle. No amount of preparation can prepare you for what you see in Africa. I will never forget the pleading look she gave me, where every day you never know when death can wait around the corner. It is not a life I would wish on my worst enemy.

Outside Kampala, we began to enter more rugged terrain, as we glided through fields of golden corn, which lit up amongst the smoke rising in the distance. A village came into sight, several hastily constructed mud shacks. As we emerged from our jeeps, the children gazed at us like we were aliens. The girls in our group fawned over the babies, and quickly became impossible to separate. I was too busy overcome with the sheer complexity of the landscape that had unfolded before me. Halfway across the world yet it seemed as if it was an alternate world altogether. As if the world had taken everything I had previously known, and perspectively outlined the creases that were invisible to the naked eye. The villages we saw were in a dire state. Children ran half naked ignoring the half-hearted attempts to calm down by their skeletal parents.

Over the following days, we visited pre-orated cave paintings, which told stories from centuries past. We trekked long and hard through the intense and unyielding sun, which delivered rays of up to 40 degrees Celsius and beyond. At the end, three others and myself decided to partake in a mini soccer match with a group of local boys. Despite us being twice their size and age, we were left in awe of their skill. All they had was a circular tuft of cotten hastily wrapped in rope.

We finally visited a local school in Kumi, which allowed us a break from the constant supply of lizards invading our bedrooms. I have never met a more polite and disciplined group of children. English being one of their primary languages, we were able to engage in lengthy conversations with them. They were delighted to learn we had brought many gifts for them. I gifted my favourite Cork jersey to one, who was perplexed by it’s meaning. We also engaged them in a hurling game, which they were naturals at. During their goodbyes, many stood up without hesitation and publicly thanked us for our generosity, bringing a tear to many of our eyes. I decided then to leave my working model of the solar fridge for them, to keep and use. I have never regretted that decision.

The people of Uganda are the most sincere and welcoming people I have ever met. I saw things I’ve never imagined of and it’s only strengthened my resolve to improve their lives. It was my privilege and honour to meet such a fantastic people and I would recommend any individual to try this life-changing experience.

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.

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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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