Feature

Donegal teacher's climb up Africa's highest mountain inspired by street children

Dubai-based Letterkenny teacher Nicola O’Donnell conquered Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness and funds for a cause close to her heart

Declan Magee

Reporter:

Declan Magee

Donegal teacher's climb up Africa's highest mountain inspired by street children

Nicola O'Donnell with some of the rescued street children of Moshi in Tanzania.

A young Donegal woman has climbed Africa's highest mountain to raise funds for an African children’s home.
Dubai-based Letterkenny teacher, Nicola O’Donnell, conquered Mount Kilimanjaro, at her first attempt.
Nicola - a daughter of Patrick O’Donnell, Crievesmith, Letterkenny, and Mary McGettigan, Meenreagh, Termon - undertook the dangerous climb in order to raise awareness and funds for a cause close to her heart.
The Amani Children’s Home in Moshi, Tanzania, is a safe haven for the many street children of a large municipality of 150,000 people, many of whom live in poverty.
It also provides education, counselling and much-needed medical care for these impoverished children and was where Nicola volunteered her time ahead of her ascent.
Nicola said climbing Kilimanjaro was something she had always been interested in doing.
Before leaving from Dubai she researched the local area and came across the Amani Children’s Home.
She got in touch and applied to take part in the home’s ambassador scheme and she offered to go and volunteer at the school before her ascent.
The home had 55 children in its care when Nicola arrived. Most of them are orphans, their parents having died from Aids or other illnesses. Without the home, many of them would be on the streets.
The home looks after the children until they can find homes for them, usually with relatives or family friends.
Nicola said doing the climb for the school helped her get to the top of the mountain.
“It gave me great motivation at times on Kilimanjaro when I thought, ‘What am I doing. This is crazy?’ It gave me an extra push.”
Nicola was taken aback by the huge difference in conditions the pupils face at their school compared to her own experience of education in Ireland and Dubai.
“It’s incredible the difference to Dubai and Ireland. It’s very, very basic,” she said.
“Basic things like running water, we take for granted. The school had old wooden desks and chairs. The walls are bare and grey and it's not like the schools we attend or work in.”
Another big problem for Nicola was language. She had prepared some Swahili before she arrived as very few of children speak English.
One child that did speak English well was called Mary. “She told me her name was Mary, just the same as my mother. I did a project with them about what they wanted to be when they grew up. She said she wanted to be a sister, which was strange to me as very few children in Ireland want to be nuns. But now the home is sending her to a school to train to be a sister.”
Nicola is back in Letterkenny now for a well-deserved rest before returning to Dubai to continue her teaching and to tell her pupils all about her summer’s adventures on Kilimanjaro.