Derry man Darian Moore with two of the young children he helped to look after during his time in Ghana.
A Derry man and his fiance have helped transform the lives of children living in an African orphanage.
Darian Moore and Lauren Toye, who is from Quigley's Point, recently returned from two weeks of volunteering at Becky's orphanage in Ghana which is home to 53 children.
As part of their efforts, Darian and Lauren raised more than £2,000 in advance of their trip.
The money was handed over to the orphanage and has been used to buy a wide range of items to improve the children's lives.
The young local couple were in Ghana from February 10 to February 14.
Lauren thanked everyone who had supported their fundraising efforts.
“We received brilliant support from people from all over Donegal, Derry and Leitrim.
“With the money raised, we were able to buy: a deep freezer for the food to be kept fresh; a blender; six drying lines; 30 new uniforms for the children who did not have any; five footballs; one handball; a small MP3 player for music; and a contribution of 1,000 Cedi towards the repair of the children's school bus. [1 Ghanaian Cedi equals 0.16 Euro.]
“We also paid for Precious to have her hair re-braided. Precious is the only girl in the orphanage to have long hair as she originally came from South Africa.
“We then used the rest of the money to buy ice cream, crackers, pineapple and other treats for the children from day to day.”
Acknowledging everyone who helped in her mammoth fundraising effort, Lauren thanked her family and friends especially.
She added: “I would also like to thank Fr Mailey in Drung; Quigleys Point Community Centre; Sainsbury’s in Derry; and Debbie, who is the manager of Lidl in Buncrana).
“That is not forgetting anyone who helped out in any way at fundraisers, by donating prizes or coming along to events. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Even the smallest donation made a huge difference in Ghana.”
An average day in Ghana for Lauren began at 5.00am.
She reaclled: “We usually arrived at Becky's Orphanage at 5.30pm 0r 6.00pm, depending on the taxis. We stayed about a 10 minute drive away from the orphanage.
“When we arrived, we helped to get the children ready for school and had 'morning cuddles' with the younger children. We went on the school bus with the children.
“There were about 45 children, four volunteers and our the driver squashed on a 25 seater bus but we made it work.
“When we dropped the children off, we went back for breakfast, then back to the school, where could had the choice of watching the children in the daycare or teaching a class, if we wanted. At 12.30pm, we went back for lunch and rested until 3pm.
“Then it was back to school to get the children onto the bus and back to the home. Because their own bus was broken down, we had to rely on taxi buses from the village, which were not always readily available when we needed them. For a few days, we had to wait to 4pm for one to arrive.”
But it did not stop there. Back at the orphanage, it was homework, with the younger children playing or watching TV.
Lauren said: “The older children usually helped with cooking dinner. I tried to help one day but it was the hardest thing. They cook in an outside hut.
“They light a fire in an old wheel alloy and cook in a huge pot. If the heat doesn’t get to you, the smoke in your eyes will. It wasn’t the easiest dinner I ever helped cook.
“We usually left the orphanage around 6.30pm but a few evenings we were lucky and the taxi was late so we could stay longer.
“Volunteer safety was paramount at Becky’s, so when the mosquitos came out, we went in. Back at the volunteer house, we could have dinner, get cleaned up and then the night was our own.
“We never ventured out much at night because of the mosquitos as well as the power cuts. The whole village would be in darkness. It would be very difficult to navigate your way.”
Lauren described her trip to Ghana as 'the most amazing experience'.
She said: “At first it was difficult, seeing some sights was hard.
“What people live in, children on the street in rags, being sent to school with no breakfast or lunch. The children from Becky’s Orphanage are lucky as they will at least get their three meals a day.
“People with no running water and power that would often go off also took a bit of getting used to. Although, washing from a bucket of cold water did become something I looked forward to and was quite refreshing.
“Being able to see the joy from the children when you came to see them at the school and orphanage, how a small piece of pineapple brightened their day and even just the enjoyment they would get from sitting beside you, would melt your heart.
“Of course, with the money we raised, we were able to do a lot for the children, but what we left with was so much more.
“We have learned how to appreciate the simple things in life; to be grateful for everything we have here at home; and to never take anything for granted here,” added Lauren.
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