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March 20, 2021 20 min

This episode of Sparks of Hope features friends, Paul Hanrahan and Pat Murphy, chatting about how a diverse group of Tralee locals, with little or no development experience, decided to set up an NGO when they learned about the suffering of the Basotho people who lived halfway around the world. 

Action Lesotho, founded in Kerry in 2003 by this group of ordinary people, nowadays provides food, education and training in the tiny, land-locked country of Lesotho, in Southern Africa. Paul and Pat’s conversation explores the development of the organisation and the many lessons learned along the way. Paul muses on the fact that, though they did make mistakes, they also, luckily, did enough, ‘right things’ in order to keep going and keep developing.

Nowadays, while Action Lesotho does supply food and emergency aid when needed, their guiding principles are sustainability and capacity building. While the work in Ireland is entirely voluntary, the work in Africa is carried out by paid local workers. Paul explains how they have developed a skilled team of local people who are rapidly acquiring the skills needed to sustain the work on the ground. 

Action Lesotho has benefitted from grants from Irish Aid and other funders, but it is mostly funded by the efforts of a stalwart group of supporters in Kerry and Cork.  A team of more than 30 dedicated volunteers runs the Action Lesotho bric-a-brac and book shops in Tralee. Many of these locals have been working with, and supporting, the organisation since the beginning and share Paul’s view of service as an opportunity rather than a burden.

Close contact with people on the ground in Lesotho has given Paul a deep understanding of the inequalities in the world and how these are currently being magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. He describes how a country like Lesotho may well end up waiting years before its people have access to vaccination and the potential consequences for all of us if we choose to ignore the welfare of our fellow human beings.

This story of the Kerry people who founded and support Action Lesotho bears out the famous statement by anthropologist, Margaret Mead, 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

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