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Blarney couple’s unforgettable experience in Uganda

LyonsClaire and Robin Lyons live under the shadow of the famous Blarney Stone in Co Cork where they run a successful childcare business. They have been sponsoring two children, John and Christine, for three and a half years now (that's Christine in the photo).

After a while sponsoring the children became a matter of routine for the Lyons’ and they began to wonder just what difference their sponsorship money was making and what these people in a far off country that they had a connection with were really like. So, they decided that the best way to find out was to visit the children and their families in person.
 
“I can safely say it was the best thing we have ever done” says Robin, “the welcome and the warmth with which we were received during our visit to the villages was like nothing we had ever witnessed. We experienced joy, humility, sadness, tears and laughter all at once. What an experience!”

“Both of the children presented us with hand made gifts which are now in pride of place in our home. John even made a camp for us in the hope that we would stay longer in the village! We were really touched by the generosity of these people who have so little in the way of possessions”.

The enthusiastic welcome also extended to the Plan staff who showed the couple their work in the region which includes schools, an HIV/AIDS programme, a water supply programme and a microfinance savings plan for villagers. Claire and Robin were impressed with the fact that the Plan workers are all Ugandan.

The pair brought with them small gifts for the children of the village who were delighted with the footballs and swing balls.

“But the greatest pleasure we got” says Claire, “was when we gave the families the gift of food and provisions. It was such a small thing for us and cost about €100 but it provided both families with three months supplies of basic foodstuffs”.

Claire and Robin have three grown up children who read with great interest all the letters and listen patiently over and over again to the stories their parents tell about their trip.

“Getting involved with Plan Ireland has given us an in-depth look at the lives of the Ugandan people and their traditions and cultures” says Claire. “It has been a wonderful experience, but not only for us. When we returned we spent a lot of time, especially with the older children at our childcare centres, and showed them the photos. It was very educational for them also”.
 
“They all craved education and this is the one thing we feel is vital to them. They know that education is the one way out of the situation they are in and Plan with their sponsorship programme is doing an excellent job building schools and working with the government departments to provide teachers and equipment”.