Former minister’s trek to Everest Base Camp helps Ugandan village

Jimmy Deenihan raised funds for Goal water project after being ‘shocked’ during 2019 visit

There is, it would appear, a life after politics. And football. Former minister, TD, senator, and five time All-Ireland winning Kerry footballer Jimmy Deenihan has been helping to bring clean, safe water to a rural community in Uganda.

Until recently people in Nyaminyagwe, a village in the Bugiri district of eastern Uganda, had to make a two-hour daily journey on foot to the nearest safe borehole to draw clean water. They frequently had to use contaminated water from local wells, which inevitably led to health problems.

Now they have clean, safe water following a fundraising effort by Mr Deenihan and the charity Goal, of which he is a board member.

“I was shocked,” he said of a 2019 visit to the area, during which he saw people having to walk long distances in search of safe drinking water.

Too often the residents “resorted to drawing contaminated water from local water wells which led to cases of typhoid, diarrhoea and cholera. So I decided I had to do something to help address this problem,” he said.

To raise funds, the former Fine Gael TD set about a trek to Mount Everest Base Camp. He trained for six months for the expedition to an altitude of 5,380m, which he undertook with fellow Kerry people Carly Horan, Claire Trant and Blondie Horan.

“It is incredible to think that this relatively small investment will transform hundreds of lives,” Mr Deenihan said of the cost of digging the well in Uganda, which was €6,900.

Today is World Water Day today, an initiative that aims to highlight the importance of safe water, not least during the pandemic. Up to 784 million people worldwide are estimated to live without access to clean water, one in 10 of the world’s population.

In Uganda, just 39 per cent of the population has access to safe water and sanitation. Goal has since 2005 helped to drill more than 400 school and community water boreholes and to rehabilitate 125 others.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times