5th Year “Willow Wheelers” help raise nearly €18k for Kenyan Community in One Weekend

Author: Neasa Kane Fine

The Willow Wheelers – one of the largest cycling clubs in Ireland and part of the Blackrock College and Willow Park Schools community – made their annual mission trip to Kenya in February 2023 to visit the projects they fund and determine future needs.

The group of around 30 adults and teenagers included eight 5th Years and three 4th Years from Blackrock College. They were led by Christy McDaid, Willow Wheelers Chairman along with teachers from Willow Park and parents / grandparents of current / past pupils of both Blackrock College and Willow Park Schools, most of whom cycle with the Willow Wheelers every week.

Ten of the group, including 5th Year boys and parents, visited Rotu, a small community in the Pokot region of Kenya just north of the equator where Spiritan Priest, Fr Sean McGovern, has established a mission. The Willow Wheelers drilled a bore hole in Rotu around five years ago to provide drinking water. But the area is now suffering from a severe drought having had no rain for two years. As a result, people cannot grow crops or feed animals.

A similar situation pertains to the other two missions visited by others in the February trip, Barpello and Tanglebei, which are not quite so remote and inaccessible as Rotu, but are also supported by the Willow Wheelers.

Every week in Rotu Fr. Sean feeds as many local people as possible with rice and grain, but there is never enough food to go around. In February, the Irish visitors were very moved to see queues of people who have nothing, waiting patiently and good humouredly for food. Sadly, some of them had to be turned away because there simply wasn’t enough food to go around. The visiting Willow Wheelers, boys and adults alike, felt they had to help somehow.

Having established that 180 people can be fed for just €80 per week, a small group of 5th Year parents and Willow Wheelerettes, resolved to undertake additional fundraising to help feed and support the community of Rotu immediately.

On the weekend of 11th & 12th March, they held a coffee morning, bake sale, monster raffle and silent auction. Thanks to the enormous efforts of all involved, along with many very generous donations and support from the school community, they raised a phenomenal €17,848, in just one weekend!

These funds will go a long way to feed, provide medications, sanitation and education for people in Rotu.

We are especially proud of all our 5th Year Willow Wheelers for their efforts and contribution to the Rotu fundraising weekend, and their ongoing efforts to raise funds for mission communities through the annual 100 Miles Cycle, including during the two Covid-19 panedemic years: Cathal Kavanagh, Oscar Egan, Gavin McNabb, Gordon O’Hara, Oisín Fine, Hugo Redmond, Jack Leyden, Conor O’Leary, Liam Poulsen, Oisin Daly, Hugh Galligan, and Cian McAdam.

They, along with hundreds of other Willow Wheelers, from Blackrock College 5th Year to Willow Park 5th Form, and adult cyclists, will soon undertake the annual Willow Wheelers 100 miles (160km) fundraising cycle, to raise even more money for many mission communities in Africa and South America, on Sunday 30th April 2023.

Visit WillowWheelers.club to donate or for more information about this legendary cycling club.

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