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Victoria Smurfit & Helen Keogh - World Vision

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Victoria Smurfit & Helen Keogh - World Vision
Victoria Smurfit and Helen Keogh are here to talk about their work with World Vision Ireland.

How Child Sponsorship began
Child sponsorship began more than 50 years ago when Dr Bob Pierce, a Christian Minister was preaching in China.

He was struck by the families living in extreme poverty and decided to send money to a little girl whose widowed mother could not afford to send her to school. The concept of child sponsorship was born. When he returned to the US, Dr Pierce began to raise money for other children and so began World Vision in September 1950.

In the 1970s World Vision's focus broadened from assisting the individual child to include community development. Since the 1980s, the "welfare" approach has gradually changed to a more collaborative relationship.

Poor, marginalised people and communities work with World Vision to improve their lives and take control of their futures through our Area Development Programmes.
Today, World Vision operates in some 100 countries, benefiting more than 100 million people supported by people all over the world".

"Help your kids realise the real meaning of Christmas!' says Victoria Smurfit
Actress Victoria Smurfit is asking shoppers to help save lives this Christmas by buying gifts from the World Vision Ireland Community Gift Catalogue.

Speaking at the launch of the Gift Catalogue, Victoria, who plays the role of Dr Edel Swift in the RTE medical drama The Clinic, said, 'You don't have to be a doctor to save lives. I bought six chickens for €10 for both my girls, Evie and Ridley Belle and a cute little piglet for €25 for my son Flynn. There's no hassle with wrapping all the presents and it's a great way to remind my kids that there are children in the world who require these gifts as a necessity, not simply for pleasure. The joy is in the giving.'

Buying Local
World Vision Ireland CEO, Helen Keogh said 'By choosing a gift from our Catalogue, you are giving someone living in poverty in the developing world the chance of a better life. Every item in our catalogue has been requested by our field staff in Africa who live and work locally so you can be sure your gift is going where it's needed most.

'All the gifts are sourced locally because it ensures that the animals are suitable for the climate, that a minimum is spent on administration and shipping and, vitally, that we support the local economy.' added Helen.

Prices for all budgets
There are over 30 gifts to choose from this year. Prices cater for all budgets and start from as little as €5 for school fruit trees to building a house for HIV/AIDS orphans for €3,000.
Other gifts include six chickens (€10), a cute little piglet (€25), a vegetable garden kit (€30), sewing machines for women's groups (€89) and a block of community toilets (€1,600).

Sponsoring a Child
Victoria Smurfit sponsors a girl called Veronica from Tanzania through World Vision Ireland. She saw the impact of World Vision's work first hand when she visited Veronica with actress Pauline McLynn. 'I've seen for myself the great work World Vision does helping children and families overcome desperate poverty. I really hope people will support their good work this Christmas.' said Victoria.
To purchase a World Vision gift and help save lives in Africa go to" Ref: World Vision

"Each gift comes with a card describing the gift you've chosen and how it will be used. If you order online you can also print a certificate detailing your choice and get an e-card delivered to your friend or family member.

World Vision Ireland is a registered Irish charity (Number: 6434) founded in 1983 and is part of World Vision International, one of the world's leading international relief and development agencies. World Vision works towards ending poverty, fighting hunger and injustice, and bringing about lasting change for the better in the lives of more than 100 million people in some 100 countries worldwide". (REF:
It is coming up to Christmas time and World Vision are looking for donations. Victoria Smurfit has also recently been seen in The Clinic on RTE One.

Victoria Smurfit
Victoria made a name for herself on Berkeley Square and Ballykissangle. But her big break came when she appeared in The Beach with Leonardo Di Caprio.

In 2000 she also appeared as Jimmy Nesbit's old flame in Cold Feet. In 2002 she went on to appear as Suzie in About a Boy with Hugh Grant. In 2003 she took the part of DCI Rosin Connor in Trial & Retribution. She continued to play this part till 2009. She found the nine month commitment too much for a mother of three. The job involved 16 hour days.

In 2009 she joined the cast of The Clinic playing Dr Edel Swift.

Victoria started in World Vision back in my Ballykissangle days. She sponsored a girl in Tanzania called Veronica. She found out that Pauline McLynn also sponsors a child from the same village which is so unusual and they decided to head out there in 2001/2002 to see how it all worked. They did a little film of our time out there. They met everyone there and we were presented with chickens. She is in a position to really know how the money is spent and how tangible the €22 is to everyone.

We do give World Vision gifts as presents for Christmas. You get a card and then the card says what you bought for them.

Helen Keogh
"Helen Keogh is a former teacher and politician. She was also very involved in the women's movement in Ireland in the 1980s. She is the current chair of Dochas, the umbrella group of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Ireland and is a spokesperson for the current Dochas campaign to protect the Government's overseas aid budget from further cuts. She has had an interesting and varied career and is a regular media contributor". Ref: World Vision Press Release

World Vision - what do they do?
We do long term development work in East and West Africa countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania and Sierra Leone and Swaziland. This is where we help communities help themselves. We work with them to put together a programme which will lead to sustainable development. We would say to them that we will work for 10-15 years with them because these people are the poorest of the poor. They need a lot of help, training and guidance. What they need comes from them - we work with them - we don't tell them. It could be projects within the community - health, water, education - a part of the programme could be about farming and what to do in drought. It is very diverse and it depends on the country you are in.

We get funding from Child Sponsorship - say you sponsor a child in Uganda - the money doesn't go direct to the child it goes to the community who use the funding for the projects we are engaged with. We also get government funding. Overall we spend 20% on staffing to promotion to advertising - 80% of what we receive in funding goes to the field communities.

World Vision - is like Oxfam - there is one in Ireland but we are autonomous here we have our own board but we are part of the World Vision international where is a global partnership. World Vision is one of the biggest humanitarian agencies in the world. Our focus is very much on children.

The gift catalogue?
The whole thing about the catalogue is that it is community gifts that would help the communities best. We also purchase the goods as near the community as possible so the local economy is helped as well. The whole thing is that you can give a goat, a piglet to digging a well, to mosquito nets - it helps them to have a sustainable livelihood. It helps them develop new ways of raising animals and so on - both to feed their families and to sell on. It could be something that could help people establish a business or help them get a community toilet. Proper sanitation is so important. It's such a wide spectrum.

Is there any area that World Vision has made a huge difference? (see below for more info)
At the moment we are withdrawing from a place Gakungu in Kenya. We have been there for a number of years but the community now is self sustaining they have taken charge of all the projects like education and the water project. We are able to withdraw and put our support into other areas. That's a great success story.

Has the recession affected donations?

It has and particularly with child sponsorship and we know people are finding it hard. The number of people cancelling child sponsorship has gone up which is fine. People have said they will come back when they can afford it. We understand. It is 83 cent a day to support a child a month. Then again we are doing our campaign and hoping for more donations. Also, unfortunately our overseas aid has been cut just like the other agencies so that means we can't go ahead with some projects which is really tough.

About the successful Gakungu area in Kenya.
"World Vision Ireland in Kenya - The Gakungu Area Development Programme

World Vision Ireland began working in Gakungu in Kenya in 1991. Gakungu is situated about 80 km east of Nairobi.

The programme has reached the end of its lifespan (typically 15 -20 years), and we are now phasing out of the area as so much progress has been made. World Vision Ireland worked with the community to set up health, education, water and agriculture development projects.

The Gakungu Success Story - Key Facts

Health - Malaria practically wiped out

The prevalence rate of malaria in the area has fallen from 35% to 1% since World Vision Ireland began its 'Roll Back Malaria' campaign with the support of Irish Aid (the Irish Government's overseas development agency)


Nearly all children in the area are enrolled in primary school (97.3%). There is equal enrolment between boys and girls. World Vision Ireland also helped build classrooms, water tanks for schools and latrines (toilet facilities).

Latrines can really make a difference for girls, because while boys can easily pee in the bushes, girls need privacy. If there are no loos in the school, girls often stay at home because they don't like to be seen or teased by the boys.


45 % of the community now has access to clean running water in less than a 30 minute walk. It used to be 5%.

World Vision Ireland has helped establish community organisations, which are now running the water projects and overseeing their expansion so that even more people will have clean water in the future.


World Vision helped train famers on new agriculture techniques to help them have enough food to eat, even in times of drought. Drought is common in Kenya, so using these techniques can mean the difference between life and death". Ref: World Vision


. School bag, copy book and pencils €7
. School fruit trees €5 : Mango and papaya tress are grown in school gardens providing nutritious snacks for the children. A lot of the children can't afford to bring a lunch to school so this might be all they get to eat during the day.
. Plumpynut Nutritional Sachets €18 for a box of 20 : Plumpynut is a high calorie energy paste given to malnourished children.
. Seeds €15: These seeds are drought tolerant helping farmers to grow crops even when the rains don't come.
. Blankets €40: The blankets help keep children who have little or no possessions warm at night
. Honey production €84: This gift is to set up a community group with hives and training to produce litres of honey which not only earns them money at the market but also improves member's diets.

If you want copy of the World Vision Ireland Gift Catalogue text 'pack' and your name and address to 51500

For more information go to or call 01 498 0800