The term Peregrini derives from our Celtic history, and was a term used for Saints who were ‘travellers for Christ’. We in St Ciaran’s chose to adopt this term as it reflected the very nature of the work we wished to undertake in Zambia.
On each of our trips to Zambia, it would be an understatement to say that we are overwhelmed by the welcome and hospitality we receive; the SMA Fathers, the Zambian people and the children we worked with radiated great warmth and we felt humbled by their reception. We were also amazed by the happiness and resourcefulness of those we met. The volunteers who returned home from each trip have life long memories of a different culture and a whole new way of life.
In April 2009, the first group set off from Ballygawley to Zambia in search of projects they felt passionately about. On return, one remained with them – the people of Mulenga, near Kitwe.
Tyrone born, Fr PJ Gormley (SMA) has been ministering to the 30,000 people living there for the last six years. To say we were taken aback by the magnitude of his task is an understatement. In 2009 there was only one basic primary school, which was not given any financial backing from the government; there was no community centre or church; and it lacked many basic living facilities. As a result, and after much consideration, we pledged to support this community over the coming years because we believe that it is the area of greatest need.
A few months later, in the summer of 2009, three members of our staff headed off to Kitwe, Zambia to teach in a local primary school. Their mission was to begin to build a partnership with the people of Mulenga so that the Peregrini’s long term goal of creating an independent and sustainable community can be realised.
It was agreed that the building of a nursery school was of utmost priority; further on from that, it was then possible to support the community in their construction of a chapel/community centre. To date these projects have been the focus of our fundraising efforts. As a whole school we were also able to send a container full of building equipment and educational materials to Mulenga in 2010/2011.
A second group of staff and students from our school returned to Zambia in April 2011. On this occasion the group witnessed many of the changes that were taking place. Construction of the Nursery school was well under way and our container had just arrived after its long journey from St Ciaran’s to Zambia.
In 2013 the third group of volunteers were invited to the official opening of the Nursery School and attended some of the Easter ceremonies in the new Church with over 900 people in attendance. At the same time 8 weeks earlier Frank McNelis had embarked on a mammoth task of journeying from St Ciaran's, Ballygawley to St Ciaran's, Mulenga to bring the opening ceremony plaque.
The fourth group of volunteers set out to see the work that has been carried out by Fr Gormley and to experience the empowerment of the local people. The trip saw the strengthening of the bonds which had already been formed with the community and St Ciaran's Nursery School.