Text: Chrissy Dunne
Photos: Aiofe O Neill
In December 2022, Lake Productions produced a Christmas Concert at The Set Theatre on John Street, Kilkenny.
The two-hour concert saw over ten acts perform everything from comedy, music, singing and dance.
The show was a huge success and the talent on display was top class.
Members of the audience on the night spoke of the calibre of performance and the two hundred strong attendance showed their appreciation with heartfelt applause.
Founding member of Lake Productions, Emily Kelly explained that the theatre company, founded in 2018, was delighted to be involved and happy to produce the show.
“The ethos of the group is community involvement, and when you see the quality and the talent all around us in Kilkenny you have to show it off” said Emily.
Ms Kelly also said that producing shows is not all about making money. “Sheila Ryan does incredible work with Kilimanjaro Direct, and we felt the need to show our support, and what better way to do that than by doing what we know best” continued Emily.
Prior to her departure to Kilimanjaro, founding member of the charity, Sheila Ryan met with sponsors and producers to accept a cheque to help fund continuing work on her project.
Speaking with The Kilkenny Observer newspaper, Sheila said she was thrilled with both the concert and the response, by way of support.
“Fundraising is such an essential part of our work and although finance is a constant battle, you just have to keep going” said Sheila.
She explained that funds raised by the Concert was going to enable the charity to purchase laptops for the students at her African school.
Sheila thanked the performers who participated, and those who attended or sent donations.
“I am truly grateful to all, and I would like to say a special word of thanks to sponsors UPMC, Fran Grincell Properties and The Leadership Partnership”, commented Sheila.
Sheila came to Kilkenny in 1979 at twenty-one years of age and taught Music and English in the Presentation Secondary school. This post was hers for forty-one years.
She now lives in Kilimanjaro, running her charity, and travels back to Kilkenny regularly to see family and friends. Her charity work began in 2005 by bringing food to families and then she and others started building houses for people with disabilities.
A teacher for 41 years at the Presentation Secondary School in Kilkenny, Sheila knows first-hand the transformational impact education has on the lives of young people.
After a holiday in 2005 Sheila was moved when she witnessed first-hand the desperate living conditions of some people, many of them children living in mud huts with no access to a decent education.
Fast forward two years and the charity, Kilimanjaro Direct, was born. Since then a school, the Liberty English Medium Primary School, has been set up and 14 homes have been built.
The charity relies mainly on voluntary donations and over the years the people of Kilkenny have been incredible in supporting the cause. Sheila, who moved full time to Tanzania two years ago, was recently back home in the Marble City.
Sheila explained that the rising cost of fuel and climate change was driving up costs for the charity.
“It is very difficult at the moment for everyone and people here are struggling as well with the rising cost of fuel and food,” she said.
“We are seeing this as well, as fuel prices are going up all the time and we have four buses operating to bring the children to and from school.
The positive impact of the work of the charity is clearly evident and the youngsters continue to thrive academically”, continued Sheila.
Kilimanjaro Direct (KD) is a charity that has built 14 houses and a primary school in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Claire Phelan, general manager of UPMC Aut Even Hospital, And Fergus Horgan of The Leader partnership joined with Ger Cody of Lake Productions to present Sheila with the proceeds of the concert.
Both Claire and Fergus commented that they found the work carried out by Sheila and her team was inspirational and that they were happy to support the cause.