Two young Derry girls are to head to Ghana in West Africa during their mid-term break later this month to volunteer in an orphanage.
Eimear McColgan, 17, and Emma Fril, 18, – Year 14 students at St Cecilia's College - are to set sail on February 13 for a week of volunteering work with London-based Original Volunteers.
This will be Emma's first time taking such a trip but Eimear spent all of last summer in Marrakesh in Morroco working in an orphanage and in a special needs school there.
She said the experience 'completely changed my outlook on life'.
Speaking to the Derry News about her first trip, Eimear said: “It helped me detach from materialism and made me have more compassion and empathy for others.
“It can be tempting at times to slip back into that materialistic lifestyle but I look at the pictures from my time away and I realise that I have everything I need already.”
She added: “When I'm volunteering, it feels like I'm in a different world. One much more free and more filled with love than the one we live in over here.”
Emma said she was inspired by her friend's first adventure and decided she couldn't pass on the opportunity to join her on her next trip.
She added: “Eimear was telling me about the experience and it sounded really amazing. I just can't wait to get out there now and see it for myself.”
Both girls got part-time waitressing jobs and saved all their pay to fund the trip.
They are the only ones from Northern Ireland going away but flying alone doesn't phase the pair.
“It was my first time flying alone when I went to Marrakesh but I was excited by that and this time isn't much different. My parents, on the other hand, are scared for me to go,” said Eimear.
Closer to home, Eimear is involved with Reach Across and she said volunteering at home was a great start for someone who wanted to work abroad.
“There's loads of opportunities here in Derry to volunteer and, of course, there are so many people here in need too so you don't have to go abroad to make a difference.”
St Cecilia's principal, Martine Mulhern, is incredibly proud of the two girls and the work they are doing for those less fortunate than them.
She said: “We are so in awe of the two girls to make the arrangements and raise the money needed all by themselves.
“Eimear and Emma are quite shy by nature but this has shown us their inner strength to do something that a lot of other people wouldn't do.
“Here, we have two young women quietly doing amazing things and changing lives for other people and that is incredible. It's great to have such wonderful role models for the rest of the school.”
Bernadette Ó Mianáin, head of year 14, is also delighted the girls will be able to show the goodness of young Derry people.
She said: “The girls are so modest about what they are doing but they are going above and beyond to help others.”
Concluding, Ms Ó Mianáin said: “It's so important we highlight the wonderful work that young people are capable of, especially here in Derry.”
Eimear brought toys and art supplies with her when she went to Marrakesh in the summer, which she paid for out of her own pocket.
This time around, however, the Upper Sixth girls at St Cecilia's had a secret bake sale and raised over £100 to be spent on gifts for the Ghanian children.
Eimear and Emma were incredibly surprised and humbled by their classmates' generosity.
The girls will jet off on February 13 for a week in Ghana, volunteering with an orphanage there.
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