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Trocaire campaign with Lorraine Keane and Derry Clarke

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Trócaire's Lenten campaign, best known by the 'Trócaire Box', is the organisation's biggest annual fundraising and awareness raising campaign on global poverty.

During the six weeks of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, Trócaire highlights a specific challenge or injustice faced by people living in poor countries and asks the people of Ireland to help. The 2010 Trócaire Lenten Campaign will focus on hunger.

The Lenten campaign is rooted in parishes and schools nationwide and involves all sections of the community. Over 1 million Trócaire boxes are brought into homes around the country. The Lenten theme is brought to life through the story of the child featured on the box, whose family is coping with poverty.
The Lenten campaign raises over €10 million each year which funds Trócaire's work with the world's poorest people.
2010: One in six campaign

Trócaire's Lenten campaign in 2010 will focus on rural poverty and hunger under the loose banner 'one in six'.

For the first time ever, the UN has said that one sixth of humanity is hungry. Over one billion people in the world will go to sleep hungry tonight. 80 per cent of hungry people live in rural areas. Five million children under five years old die each year from hunger and diseases caused by hunger.

The problem is not that there's no food available - it's that they don't have any money to buy it. They live in areas that have been neglected, without infrastructure; they have no credit, no access to markets to sell anything they might grow. Deforestation is also a major problem. It leads to soil erosion and means people can't plant food.

Sometimes they are forced to abandon their land and move to city slums.
These people live on less than $2 per day.

Derry Clarke and Trócaire

Chef Derry Clarke has agreed to take the '€2 a day' challenge on behalf of Trócaire to launch our Lenten campaign in 2010. He will attempt to live on that amount for a day to highlight how little a family in the developing world has to live on, and how they face malnutrition because of their lack of food.
He will speak about how people forced to live on so little can't possibly be getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and to survive.

Lorraine Keane and Trócaire

Lorraine Keane travelled to Zimbabwe and Mozambique with Trócaire in December to highlight our work with poor communities there. She visited a school in Zimbabwe where pupils are given their only meal of the day through a Trócaire programme. More than 13,000 children in Zimbabwean primary schools benefit from this programme. She will speak about the impact our work makes.

2010: The Trócaire box

Six-year-old Domitille from Rwanda is the little girl on this year's box. Domitille's parents have just €1.07 a day to look after their family of eight. The family survives on very little food. Domitille and her brothers and sisters have two small meals a day and her parents take just one meal - or often go without - to make sure that the children can eat. They'll do whatever it takes so that the children don't cry with hunger.

Domitille's mother, Triphonie, told Trócaire that sometimes they simply do not have enough food to go around. "I try my best but when it does happen I look for something to give them (the children). If I can get a kilo of flour I will divide it among the children. It happens. I try to deal with it. For us, as parents, we frequently go without food. We try to have two meals a day for the children but my husband and I only eat in the evening. As soon as we get even a half kilo of flour we give it to the kids because we don't want to see them crying. We suffer but we try to endure," she said.

In Triphonie's community a women's group supported by Trócaire helps vulnerable families like Triphonie's to find a new ways of making a living. The scheme has given Triphonie hope.

Trócaire's work in Rwanda is making an impact on the lives of many poor people. In 2004, Josienne from Rwanda featured on the Trócaire box. After the genocide in 1994, Trócaire provided counseling for Josienne's family to help them to cope with the loss of their father and brother. Josienne's mother, Geneviève,joined a Trócaire-funded agriculture project and became part of a savings and loan scheme that helped her to slowly invest in her farm, grow food, sell crops, buy livestock and eventually rebuild her life and provide for her family.

"Before this support it was difficult to get by," Geneviéve said. "Now I can take care of my children. If my children get sick I can pay. My children go to school and I can pay for their transport, books and uniforms. I am very grateful for the training and all the help. Without it maybe I would have become a beggar."

Bosco's story (little boy in footage of Kirambi Health Centre, Rwanda, where they treat malnourished children with Trócaire's support)

Bosco has just learned to walk. As he clambers from bed post to bed post to steady himself each step is a triumph. His tiny splayed feet pat the floor, his toes are curled as grips. His steps are shaky and his big brown eyes search for reassurance while his body waddles and wobbles. Bosco can't yet talk, so he can't ask for help, but his carers stand around him to make sure he doesn't fall. Like any toddler his small legs are just learning to take his weight. But Bosco isn't a toddler, he's six years old.

In the darkness and silence of the clinic ward the Medical Missionary of Mary sisters who have tended to Bosco utter words of encouragement. Everyone is hopeful for Bosco as he inches along. But there's an unspoken sadness in the air. His is a story of chronic starvation. For years he ate just enough food to keep him alive but not enough to grow. Now at six he is just learning to use his wasted legs and to speak his first words. The sisters have brought a miraculous change in Bosco. And the strong little boy has glaring determination. But the spectre of hunger still looms over his underdeveloped body and brain. How well Bosco will recover is yet to be known.

Bosco was brought to the MMM health clinic in Kirambi, south west Rwanda, three months earlier by his elderly grandparents. Malnourishment had emaciated his body so much that he was on the brink of death. The Medical Missionaries of Mary nursed him back to health. Now under the tender care of the sisters led by Sr Helen Spragg, a pharmacist from Sheffield, he is on the long and slow road to recovery. Every journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

Not much is known about Bosco's first years. His family fled to the Congo during the genocide, long before he was born. There they languished in a camp, one family amongst thousands of displaced Rwandan families. Their's was a hard life and this legacy has been passed to Bosco.

The sisters said that Bosco's mother died in Congo. The cause is unknown. What is certain is that life as a refugee is turbulent. Disease is all around - from parasites to HIV/ AIDS, malaria, and of course the stress. There are endless infections to fight. But without medical help or food, health is a lottery.

Bosco's mother succumbed to an illness and he was left in the hands of aging grandparents unable to cope themselves. And so he starved chronically over years and stopped growing. Now in his red hoodie jumper his upper body looks plump but his legs look much weaker in his baggy blue shorts. Nevertheless the sisters have seen his health improve beyond expectation in just four months. It's amazing what food can do

For more information on Trócaire, you can contact them on

Trócaire Head Office, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland.
Tel: +353 1 6293333 / Fax: +353 1 6290661

Or visit