Following the Tsunami of 2004, many fundraising ventures were organised in Ireland to support victims of the tragedy. One idea involved the organising of groups to raise money to buy basic boats for the local population. These were then shipped to areas devastated by the catastrophe so that people could return to their traditional livelihoods of fishing and tourist-linked activities.
The challenge to contribute to this was taken up by Siobhán Kirwan-Keane, a teacher at Scoil Bhríde Cailíní (Scoil Bhríde is the original national school that was built in 1956 to serve the local community of Blanchardstown, Dublin 15. It now has an enrolment of almost 70% newcomer pupils from more than 40 different cultural and linguistic backgrounds). Inspired by the story of the school’s patron, St. Brigid, Siobhán encouraged her pupils to knit a woollen square and be sponsored for their efforts. Like St. Brigid’s cloak this idea grew to involve mothers and grandmothers connected with the school community, who resurrected their knitting needles to knit their own squares. Their pieces were added to the squares made by the children and all were sewn together to form a garment in the style of St. Brigid’s cloak. This was then raffled to raise the required funding to purchase a boat. This was all successfully done and the boat was purchased, named by the children, and dispatched.
Eight years later, former Irish rugby international Ron McCarten and his wife Edna, both residents of Blanchardstown, holidayed in Sri Lanka. One of their trips took them through still partly ravaged areas in the southwest corner of Sri Lanka to the village of Balapitiya near Kosgoda on the river Madu Ganga. One of the features of their journey involved a sea safari. Imagine their astonishment on being taken to their boat to find it was named St. Brigid’s NS Blanchardstown! Along with several other boats, it continues to provide livelihoods for a considerable number of the inhabitants of this region.
The Irish proverb ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine (we all depend on each other) continues to ring true!