A group of GAA stars from across Ireland recently travelled to Kenya with Self Help Africa as part of an initiative to plant one million trees and raise awareness of the impact of climate change on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
The week-long Plant the Planet Games trip included showpiece exhibition matches in Nairobi between the visiting stars and Kenyan Premier League football team AFC Leopards, as well as visits to Self Help Africa projects, tree planting with local communities and a reception hosted by Ireland’s Ambassador to Kenya, Caitríona Ingoldsby. The players also ran alongside professional Kenyan runners trained by Ireland’s Brother Colm O’Connell, and visited non-profit ball manufacturer Alive and Kicking, as well as projects run by Brighter Communities Worldwide.
The Plant the Planet Games were organised for the second successive year by former Galway dual player Alan Kerins’ Warriors for Humanity, with the support of the Gaelic Players’ Association, and sponsors Optimum Nutrition, team gear sponsor McKeever Sports and match day sustainability sponsor Kerry.
Reflecting on the week, Alan Kerins said: “It was another amazing Plant the Planet Games, from the match in Nairobi, tree planting with the communities in Iten, running with the Kenyan athletes, soccer matches against local communities, seeing the wonderful work that Self Help Africa do on the ground. That’s really special, tree planting with the communities. It dawned on many of the players – this is the impact of our work. Meeting families who are going to benefit from these trees long after they are gone. Planting trees with children, who will reap the rewards of these trees. The sacrifices and the challenges of raising the money, it was all worthwhile. To see the connection between Irish and Kenyan people, it was very special. The players are exemplary role models. They should be very proud of themselves, and we should be very proud of them.”
Limerick All-Star hurler Dan Morrissey commented: “It’s really been a once-in-a-lifetime-experience. A great few days from planting trees, playing soccer matches with the locals, a GAA match in Nairobi. Truly an amazing experience. A huge thanks to the GPA and Self Help Africa – it’s great to see the work that they are doing out here for the local communities.”
All-Star footballer Danielle Caldwell from Mayo, said of her Plant the Planet Games experience: “It’s been the most incredible trip, you could say life-changing, it’s been so good.
The work being carried out by Self Help Africa can’t really be put into words.”
Also on the trip was Dublin football legend Michael Darragh MacAuley: “It’s been a really interesting trip, the whole community has come out to meet us, to dance together, it’s been great.”
Mayo footballer Fiona McHale reflected: “It’s been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. Self Help Africa, the work that they are doing, not just from Ireland, we’ve met other members of Self Help Africa – it creates more sustainability, having members of the team from the local communities and that’s an important part of what they do out here. It’s been amazing.”
The Plant the Planet Games GAA players have collectively fundraised to plant one million trees with Self Help Africa and leave a legacy for generations. To support the players’ fundraising efforts and make a donation, visit: https://www.idonate.ie/event/PlantthePlanetGames2023