Ireland team visit Sri Lankan Orphanage
The Ireland cricket team took some time off from their practice and training schedule to visit the Arklow Orphanage Boys Home 35 miles south of Colombo. Forty children live there, aged between four and 17, and a cricket match was organised between them and the nearby orphanage called Newbridge.
The surprise for all the boys was that when two minibuses turned up there were seven Irish players, support staff and journalists. The young boys thoroughly enjoyed the visit with some of the Irish players taking part in the match, Kevin O'Brien, Ed Joyce and Boyd Rankin being particularly sought after for tips and autographs.
The visit was organised by Irish hotelier Brian Brennan who has been instrumental in fundraising millions of Euros in Ireland which has enabled the building of no fewer than 11 major projects in Sri Lanka.
There are to date six orphanages, three training colleges and two schools. The children are taught a wide range of curriculum subjects as well as more practical skills such as cookery, farming and engineering, all designed to give the children either an education or a trade.
Brennan explained how the projects started: "In March 2005, four months after the Tsunami disaster on St Stephens Day 2004, I travelled to Sri Lanka with €15,000 raised by the Arklow Bay Hotel to either source a small project or buy a bus for an orphanage.
"What I witnessed was total devastation with over 40,000 people dead and nearly half a million displaced. While I was there updates were emailed to those who had participated in the original fund raising and with the money raised, I purchased a field for an orphanage."
When he returned home Brian was overwhelmed with the response by the people of Arklow and he immediately set up the Arklow Sri Lanka Orphanage Fund committee with three trustees, Susan Breen, Stephen Wilde and Michael Murray appointed to control the finances. The initial fund went on to raise in excess of one million Euro, with every house in Arklow contributing in some way.
This enabled the fund to build a Girls Orphanage which opened in November 2005 (one of the biggest projects built before the first anniversary of the Tsunami). This was followed by a boy's orphanage, a training college, and funds in place to cover all essential running costs of the homes for 20 years.
Kildare man Jerry Conlon, having seen at first hand the Arklow projects, encouraged the trustees to use the same model in towns and counties throughout Ireland. Hence the Ireland Sri Lanka Orphanage Fund was born, and, in addition to Arklow, we have the Kildare, Newbridge and Cork projects here.
"I'd like to personally thank the Ireland players and management for taking the time out of their busy World Cup schedule to see our projects at first hand," said Brian. "The children were thrilled and it's a day they will never forget. We've also been invited by the team to attend Monday's game against the West Indies and we'll all be dressed up and cheering on the team."
The children were delighted to get the chance to play with the Ireland team, while farmer's son Boyd Rankin took the time to look around their chickens, pigs and cows - all designed to make the orphanage self sufficient.
The Irish party was shown around the home, met with the staff of the orphanage and the Ireland team manager, Roy Torrens, presented caps and jerseys to the person in charge of the orphanage. He also gave the orphanage enough money to buy 80 chickens, 20 pigs and a cow. The orphanage will buy these, fatten them up and sell them on to makes a substantial profit.
Roy Torrens said: "The boys thoroughly enjoyed the trip. It was a welcome break from their training and hard work and I think they left a very favourable impression. We're delighted that the young lads will be there to support the team on Monday."