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Clarinbridge couple’s annual tea parties fill containers with supplies for Malawi children

By Brendan Carroll

A Clarinbridge couple are helping to transform the lives of children in a poverty-stricken community in the East African country of Malawi, their latest fundraising effort coming to a close in the next few days.

Mary and Malachy Booth from Stradbally North are in the final stages of filling a container with everything from schoolbags to spectacles, bound for the village of Matandani in the south of the country.

Along with the badly needed supplies will go a cheque for more than €11,000, the proceeds of their most recent fundraising Tea Party held in their home.

The Booths have been hosting tea parties for nine years, raising more than €70,000 and initially supporting Alzheimer’s and cystic fibrosis charities that were dear to their hearts.

In more recent years the retired couple have become very much involved in Project Malawi, a charity set up by Co Laois school teacher Andy Monaghan more than a decade ago, to help a primary school in the rural village of Matandani.

Teachers and pupils were struggling to cope in an uninspiring environment, with huge class sizes of 120 to 140 children, very few teaching resources or even exercise books, pens etc, and gaps in basic infrastructure such as water, electricity and toilets.

The project has helped to build several new classrooms, implement training programmes for teachers, invest in modern IT equipment and a wider range of teaching resources, as well as some sports facilities.

The people of Clarinbridge and surrounding areas have played their part, contributing the guts of €40,000 along with many supplies in response to the appeals by the Booths.

The couple’s efforts this year have been greatly boosted by the generosity of the global logistics company DHL, who have agreed to transport supplies from Clarinbridge to the door of the school in Malawi.

“One of our neighbours, Frank O’Donovan, is a pilot with DHL. I sent him a handwritten letter asking could his company give us a helping hand, and he sent this on to his boss,” explained Mary Booth.

“We were so delighted when we got word back that yes, they would transport 300kg of supplies free of charge – Frank’s boss told him that it was the fact that the letter was handwritten that made a difference, it’s such an unusual thing nowadays!”

She said that they were still appealing for donations – they have launched an appeal on in conjunction with the annual Tea Party, which has so far raised €10,800 – “but I know we’ll make it to €11,000”.

The focus of their efforts now is also on filling the container going to Malawi, with Monday next, June 10, being the tentative deadline for donations.

“We have already collected so much, it’s in every room of the house – Malachy can hardly get into bed these days!

“We’re looking for everything from medical supplies to educational resources, including school bags – the kids there don’t have them.”

The Booths have been to visit the Matandani school, where Mary, who is a retired teacher, ran a training programme for teachers, and Malachy undertook a range of tasks such as painting, building a First Aid box and other ‘jobs around the house’. They plan to go out to Malawi again next year to give what help they can.

While the main focus of their support has been the school, they have also helped deliver much needed medical supplies to a local health centre and assisted the wider community in other ways too.

“Everything we send out there makes a difference. For instance, my own opticians in Briarhill, Optique Opticians, gave me a lot of reading glasses before that had been left by customers who got new ones.

“I wasn’t sure how well they would be received, but we couldn’t believe the reaction — glasses are such a rarity there, people don’t just have them.

“It was incredible to see a photo a while later of about 20 men and women wearing glasses — and to find that as a result of getting them, they had now started learning to read and write, something they just couldn’t do before,” added Mary, who expressed gratitude to all the individuals and companies who have supported their drive.

Financial donations can be made on, search for Malachy & Mary.

Pictured: Mary Booth (seated, centre) with the group she calls  her ‘Dream Team’, her helpers for the fundraising Tea Party.

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