On Tuesday May 7th, The day finally arrived that 35 of our Second Year students along with Ms Ryan, Ms Hennessy, Mr O’Leary and Mr Russell would set off to the beautiful city of Barcelona.
Our flight departed from Dublin airport before we knew it ,we had arrived!! We were in Barcelona, with the sun beaming and the clear blue skies we had a feeling it was going to be a holiday to remember. We had a jam packed itenary, giving us the opportunity to explore the wonderful attractions that Barcelona had to offer. We visited the Olympic Stadium and the Gothic Quarter. We got an insight into the cultural wonder La Sagrada Familia, the architectural masterpiece designed by Gaudi. We experienced the vibrant shopping centres surrounding Las Ramblas and spent a few euros along the way!! We then travelled to the thrill seekers paradise of Port Adventura and Ferrari Land, an experience never to be forgotten. For the soccer lovers amongst us, their dream had come true with a visit to the Nou Camp, home to Barcelona FC. The tour of the stadium was thoroughly enjoyed by all. A huge thank you to Ms Ryan for organising the trip and to Ms Hennessy, Mr O’Leary and Mr Russell for accompanying us on the trip also.
Jack O’Connor is one of the co-founders of Moyo Nua, an agricultural organization that takes its name from a combination of the word moyo, meaning life in the Malawian language of Chichewa, and nua, meaning new in Irish Gaelic. O’Connor isn’t a farmer—he’s an Irish city kid from Limerick—but the university sophomore has spent the past two years designing a seed planter with the hope of making farming in Malawi just a little bit easier.
O’Connor was still in high school when he watched the film ‘One Dollar a Day’, a documentary born out of a series of viral YouTube videos featuring American college students living in rural Guatemala. Watching the film, O’Connor says, “nearly struck me to the core.” For a city kid, thinking about life as a subsistence farmer kicked him into action.
He started researching rural agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, and that led him to Malawi, a country the United Nation calls “one of the most climate-fragile countries in the world.” In Malawi, about 80% of the country’s food is produced by smallholder farmers, and O’Connor was moved to design something that could ease the physical demands of farm labor there.
There was a lot of trial and error along the way. “We just, honestly, started throwing out ideas [and] looking at previous models that existed in the world,” says the University of Limerick sophomore, describing the project’s early days back at his secondary school. Eventually, explains O’Connor, “we came up with this idea of an ergonomic seed planter to allow the user—in this case, a smallholder farmer—to plant seeds without having to bend over.”
O’Connor and classmate Diarmuid Curtin turned to a slew of experts—agronomists, mechanical engineers and experts in rural development all offered their advice on the planter’s design. The idea ended up winning the Science For Development Award at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin in 2017, which turned out to be pretty crucial, since it came with a trip to Malawi where, with the help of an organization called Self Help Africa, the Limerick kids were finally able to get the planter into the hands of Malawian farmers for field testing.
In Malawi, the farmers made a number of suggestions for improvement, like making the tool out of locally sourced materials like bamboo. In total, 18 farmers from Southern Malawi tested the planter. That feedback, along with input from 13 retirees who tested the tool back in Ireland, all helped to inform subsequent iterations of the design. They’re currently on prototype number three, with a patent pending.
The visit to Malawi was humbling for O’Connor. “We were chatting with the farmers…about the importance of their children being able to attend school and how this planter, by reducing labor intensity…would allow their kids to start going [to school]…So that really hit home with me because I never considered, until I was actually over there, that the reality for some children is that they have to sacrifice education for sustenance.”
O’Connor enrolled at the University of Limerick after graduation from secondary school, and he kept working on the planter. At the university, the project took on a whole new life, as O’Connor met students like Catherine Hallinan, who felt herself immediately compelled to join Moyo Nua and work on the ergonomic planter. “[Jack] was telling me about it…and I convinced him to bring it in [to the school],” says Hallinan, excitedly. She has also been interested in finding ways to expand Moyo Nua’s focus, like offering social media training to young business students in Malawi.
Six of our Transition Year students – Kayla McMahon, Matthew O’Connor, Shannon Copse, Ciara Brouder, Dylan O’Shea and Shauna O’Sullivan were afforded the unique opportunity to travel to Kolkata for one week during the Easter Holidays.
They got to witness, first-hand, the work of HOPE and the extremities of life in Kolkata. Supported throughout their time in India, the students were introduced to poverty, the realities of street children and the joy of HOPE.
The students spent time visiting HOPE projects, interacting with children and adolescents who are in HOPE supported projects and immersing themselves in Indian culture.
Our young Ambassadors will remember the experience for the rest of their lives and have become more aware of their place in society and how they can make the world a better place by caring for people who are less fortunate than themselves. We are so proud of these students for not only volunteering their services but also raising a substantial amount of much-needed funds.
Well done to all of the students involved.
Desmond College Students, The HOPE foundation 2019 trip to Kolkata: Matthew O’Connor, Dylan O’Shea, Kayla McMahon, Ciara Brouder, Shannon Copse and Shauna O’Sullivan
The Way of the Cross is now in its fourteenth year.
Our pageant over the years has become part of the liturgical life of Desmond College and also of the parish of Newcastle West and surrounding areas.
Our pageant involves the support of our students, teachers, our local clergy and of course the wonderful support we receive from the public. Our re-enactment of Christ’s last journey has brought people from all over west Limerick and has done so every year.
Desmond College presents “The Way of the Cross’ on Friday 19th April 2019 – leaving Calvary Graveyard at 2.20pm. It promises to be a spectacular event.