At just 19-years-old Charlene Barr had an incredible vision to build a school in Africa.
However the Lurgan girl, who suffered from Cystic Fibrosis, passed away before she was able to witness how the £70k raised built that school in Uganda.
However her legacy continues and, seven years since her death in 2010, Charlene’s Project has raised and spent an amazing £1 million on projects across the world.
Her dad Dr Dickie Barr recalled that fateful day when they were told Charlene would need a double lung transplant.
“We always went to Nandos after visiting the hospital and Charlene was a bit down. Then suddenly she piped up that she knew what to do. ‘I want to build a school in Uganda,’ she said.”
When her Mum and Dad told her it was too ambitious a plan she asked them ‘Do you not believe in the power of God’ and ‘Do you not believe in the generosity of the people of Northern Ireland’.
Charlene was right and five months later the £70,000 needed was raised. Charlene didn’t see the school built, she passed away at the end of October 2010, the very weekend the ground was broken to begin the school build.
But the project she started has continued and is fulfilling all the hopes and dreams she had written down in her diaries before she died. Every year a Big Festive Fry is held to raise money to create better futures for children – and this year three additional primary schools in Uganda will benefit from the cash raised. Charlene’s dad revealed the work has now expanded to include projects in Guatemala and with Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey.
“Charlene had big dreams of what she wanted to achieve. I am sure she would be excited to see all that has been accomplished. She was right in what she said all those years ago. Over £1 million has been raised by Charlene’s Project with over a £1 million spent on education and health projects in the very needy areas where Charlene’s Project works.
“This is the 7th Big Festive Fry and folk have been so supportive and generous in helping us continue Charlene’s legacy. It is incredible what has been achieved as a result of previous events.”
In 2011, it helped fund supported development at Hidden Treasure Primary School, Uganda
In 2012, it provided borehole and clean water at Kahara Primary School, Uganda
In 2013 it helped build a Community Hall at Kahara Primary School, Uganda
In 2014 it helped build teacher accommodation and supported development at Kirwala Primary School, Uganda
In 2015 it helped support the refurbishment and new classrooms in Vado Ancho and Las Escaleras Primary Schools in Guatemala
In 2016 it helped fund school and community health programmes in Kahara and Kirwala Primary Schools, Uganda.
Dr Barr said: “This year we are raising funds to help support three neighbouring primary schools close to the Kahara and Kirwala Primary Schools we already support in rural western Uganda.
“These three schools need similar development to what we have already done in Kahara and Kirwala schools. For example, Nyinga Primary has over 1,000 pupils with 320 pupils in P1 and only 1 permanent P1 teacher. Yet there are only 44 pupils in P7 as older children are taken out of school to help their parents work the land and early marriage for girls is common. There are two tables in the entire school and all the resources for the whole school are kept in one small cupboard in the headmaster’s office.
“Charlene’s Project has committed to provide latrines and teacher accommodation as the first step in developing these three schools. This year’s Big Festive Fry will begin the fundraising to provide latrines and teacher accommodation in these three schools.
Dr Barr said: “All involved in Charlene’s Project would like to thank everyone who has helped the charity achieve so much over the past seven years for needy children in impoverished situations. Please continue to help us create better futures for these children by supporting the Big Festive Fry on Saturday 16th December 7.30am-noon in Dollingstown Church Halls.