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31 Bóthar calves to be raised by Loughan House prisoners for Rwandan community

31 Bóthar calves to be raised by Loughan House prisoners for Rwandan community

In-calf Dairy Heifers will be donated to local families in Rusizi, Rwanda and help supply creamery being developed there by Bóthar.
 
Prisoners at Loughan House in Co. Cavan have begun rearing 31 Irish dairy calves that will be airlifted next year to a Rwandan community where they will produce off-spring and supply milk to a community creamery being developed there by Irish international aid agency Bóthar.
 
The project, which is the latest partnership between the Irish Prison Service and Bóthar, will form part of the restorative justice programme for the prisoners as they take charge of the calves, under the supervision of the Loughan House farm manager Alan McGowan, and rear them until they are air lifted to Rusizi,
Rwanda late next year.
 
Each of the prisoners working on the project has undergone a training course in livestock management and will receive accreditation from Bóthar and V.I.V.A. (Volunteers in Irish Veterinary Assistance) for animal husbandry.
 
Bóthar has been supplying Irish animals and purchasing others locally for the impoverished Rusizi area of Rwanda for eight years.  The in-calf dairy heifers are distributed individually to poor farming families. The ‘Bóthar herd’ of over 300 dairy cows and their offspring is large enough to support a local creamery, which the aid agency began developing in 2012 and is set to complete later this year.
 
Before being sent to Rusizi in 18 months time, the then young heifers will be put in calf and will give birth in the months after they have been delivered to recipient families, each of whom will be given expert training in livestock care by Bóthar trained personnel in advance.
 
Under the hugely successful Bóthar model, each family that receives the gift of the dairy heifer also agrees to pass-on the first born female calf to another needy family. Bóthar-trained personnel also return to artificially inseminate each heifer year after year as they are ready to be impregnated again.
 
The Loughan House project has only been possible through the generosity of farmers, business people, schools and community groups across the country who responded to Bóthar’s ‘Spring Calf Appeal’ earlier this year to donate or raise money to purchase the calves.
 
Speaking at today’s event at Loughan House, Blacklion to launch the programme, Bóthar founder, Peter Ireton, said that the generosity of the Irish people, although challenged in recent years, continues to be remarkable. “There are over 5,000 families around the world each year that we manage to lift out of destitution through livestock donations and that is down to the generosity of the Irish people. Times are harder here in Ireland nowadays and people have less to give but they do continue to give. In doing so they are really giving life because getting the nutritional intake that these animals will deliver is a daily battle in Rwanda that many still lose.
 
“The Loughan House project is a wonderful coming together of a number of parts; ourselves, the Prison Service, the prisoners and, most of all, the donors who have dug deep again in the interest of others.  We are forever grateful to them,” he said.
 
Bóthar patron Neven Maguire, who is from nearby Blacklion, also attended the event and told the prisoners that their work in rearing the calves is going to make a life-changing difference to the recipient families’ lives.
 
“I am fortunate to have gone out to Africa to a Bóthar project.  I have seen families living in circumstances we cannot relate to here, irrespective of how bad things are with the recession, who have been able to send their children to college because of the gift of one Irish dairy calf.  The milk they produce is nothing short of white gold.  They get a source of nutrition they never had and as the calf grows and reproduces, they can sell that milk, as well as the yogurt and cheese they make from it.
 
“What you will be doing here over the next 18 months or will change the lives of the people who will receive these animals. That’s an enormous gift to give and would not happen without your efforts, without Bóthar’s efforts, without the prison services and, most of all, without the kindness of farmers and others who donate these calves in the first place.”
 
Loughan House Open Prison Governor Ethel Gavin said:  “Following the success of the partnership between Bóthar and Shelton Abbey Open Prison, it made sense for this partnership to extend to Loughan House.  Looking after the animals is a very responsible job and teaches the prisoners a strong work ethic and helps them to foster a sense of personal responsibility which is what an Open Centre is about.”
 
The Director General of the Irish Prison Service Michael Donnellan said that he was delighted with the continued success of this unique project.  “The Prison Service places a strong emphasis on the provision of vocational training and the introduction.  The Five-Module Training Programme being delivered by VIVA is an important development in this project. The Irish Prison Service is seeking to get formal accreditation for the training programme. Opportunities like this project encourage positive development in prisoners and prepare them for re-integration in society on release, which will ultimately give them the best chance of leading law-abiding and self-supporting lives after release.”


Check out the Irish Independent report here


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