GEM Vending’s charity of choice is The Gallagher Trust, a small personal charity set-up in 2016 to raise funds to support and manage a Community Based Living Programme in Rwanda. They give homes, care, love, education and recreation to the vulnerable and orphaned young people with mental and physical disabilities who were abandoned when the Noel Orphanage closed in December 2014.
Little did the Gallagher family know when they took their first trip to Rwanda that this would change their lives, and not only capture their hearts, but also all the hearts of the people within GEM Vending. The story behind the eventual creation of The Gallagher Trust started back in 2009…
The Noel Orphanage
At GEM Vending we have strong links with The Point Foundation, especially our Chairman, Steven Gallagher and his family, who have visited Rwanda to support the charity many times over the last 7+ years. It was following a charity ball in 2009 that Steven and his wife Sharon decided to visit Rwanda for the first time, along with their then 12 year old son James.
This initial visit took them to The Noel Orphanage, which is situated across the road from the tea plantation where GEM Vending source their fresh leaf tea. The orphanage is home to over 560 children, ranging in age from only a few hours to 20+ years.
It was truly shocking to see first hand the conditions in which the children were living. The children were well cared for and loved by the volunteer mothers from the local villages, but they lived in very cramped, smelly and extremely hot conditions, with 4 children to a single mattress in dormitories of 70+. They survived on one meal of maize per day, and their only possessions were the clothes they wore.
Around 40 children lived in a separate block and were either physically or severely mentally disabled as a result of the horrendous genocide, which took place in 1994, when families turned on each other, and in which millions lost their lives.
The Point Foundation has been supporting the orphanage since 2008, and in that time they have been able to make a massive difference to the young lives.
The Gallagher family have returned to Rwanda many times since 2009, even spending Christmas at the orphanage in 2013. This just proves their dedication to support the work of this amazing charity. In addition, Sharon Gallagher became a Director of The Point Foundation in 20xx.
The Disability Programme
The Noel Orphanage was the largest child institution in Rwanda, and closed its doors in December 2014. This required over 600 children & youth to be re-homed by the process of deinstitutionalisation, but still living below the poverty line.
Following this, Sharon has focussed her efforts on providing support to the disability programme, which began back in 2013. This programme aims to improve quality of life for the 36 disabled children and young adults formerly of The Noel Orphanage. This is done in many ways, including physiotherapy & daily activities at a local rehabilitation centre and improving individual’s dignity and hygiene.
The Gallagher Trust
With over 600 children to look after, The Noel Orphanage had few resources to care for their disabled children and youth. Disability is still viewed as a shameful stigma in much of Rwanda – these young vulnerable people were considered the lowest priority.
Years of mistreatment & malnutrition has further traumatised them – some even died through neglect.
The Gallagher Trust is determined to make a different to the lives of 20 disabled, young people, forgotten & homeless, they were in danger of being abandoned again in their short lives.
The Homes for Life Programme is funding 4 homes within the community to provide dignity, hygiene and respect, just £100 will cover all medical costs for an entire house for a whole month. £30 will cover the costs for a full time carer for a whole week.
To find out more about The Gallagher Trust or to make a donation to this wonderful charity, please visit their Just Giving page.