At the tender age of eight, Limavady girl Aoife Owens recalls being moved by stories told by volunteers at summer camp, and their life- changing experiences.
The Society of African Missions’s volunteers in Dromantine, County Down, would speak movingly of their heartfelt experiences in places including Tanzania and Zambia, and of the special people they met.
More than a decade on and those stories have stayed strong with Aoife as the student teacher is about to embark on a journey and do as the volunteers did.
The 20-year-old will spend six weeks during her holidays in Zambia with ‘Friends of Africa’ - a charity that has several projects based in Africa, where they aim to take “small steps together” to make a big difference.
In June, Aoife will join a team of volunteers, giving up her time to teach young children and work with street children from the local area, “to help improve their opportunities so they can thrive in society”.
“I remember the stories of volunteers when I was younger, and I always thought it was something I‘d like to do, but this is the first time I’ve been old enough to do it,” she told the ‘Journal’.
“The volunteers really inspired me and I hope I can inspire and motivate the children through education.”
As a volunteer, it is a fundamental requirement to fundraise £3,000. To date, Aoife is almost two thirds of the way towards reaching her target. With friends she held a tasty bun sale at St. Mary’s College in London where she is studying, and last Friday night she organised a successful music night at the family bar, ‘Frank Owens’ in Limavady.
A packed crowd was entertained by local talent including Rachel O’Connor, Gemma Mullins, Claire Hill, Conor Crampsie, Leanne Doherty, Stephen Jones, and the band ‘The Stumble Bums’.
To date, including proceeds from the night, Aoife has raised £1,605.
“My daddy Gary was fantastic in helping me - anything I asked to do he helped with - and there was a lovely atmosphere,” said Aoife, who wants to thank the talented performers and everyone - including parents Dawn and Gary - who supported the event.
“I know I’m not going to go out to Zambia and change the world, but I hope I can make a difference,” she said, adding: “Any donations - no matter how small - will be greatly appreciated and help make a difference.”
To donate to Aoife go tohttp://www.justgiving.com/Aoife-Owens1