For the month of March (also known as Irish American Heritage Month) IrishCentral is tapping into the heartbeat of the Irish American community. The Unsung Heroes series features inspiring individuals from across the US who do extraordinary work in their communities and respective fields. From advocates to artists, from local legends to dedicated educators; from a high school baseball team to dynamo nuns in their 80s, these people are making a difference and to them we tip our hats in thanks.
There’s quite a number of places you might recognize Donie Carroll from: the Irish folk scene from the mid-sixties with his folk group Finnegan's Wake; as resident musician at Kate Kearney’s in New York from the mid-nineties, or perhaps his role in the 2007 Off-Broadway production of John B Keane's "SIVE."
For almost 50 years Donie has been a prominent voice in the Irish and Irish American arts scenes. Having moved to New York in 1993, he is now based in Queens where he continues to perform and promote traditional folk music.
His most recent work has seen him bring his gift of music to the slums of Bangkok, where he works with the Mercy Center for abandoned and abused children. Set up by Fr. Joe Maeir, it now houses more than 150 children. Over one third have HIV/AIDS.
“The orphanage is in a slum area known as Klong Toey, otherwise known as ‘the slaughterhouse”, Donie says, “I visited for the first time last July and helped to set up music classes for the children because it’s known that music is a wonderful therapy.”
He made his most recent trip last month to help out on the current project; building an after-care center for teenagers with aids. “We have no big CEO, it’s all voluntary so every penny goes to the center”, he says.
Donie was nominated for his charity work and outstanding contribution to the arts. But for Donie, his motivation is simple. “I have four grandkids myself in Cork and I could not imagine them abused or abandoned on the streets. Kids are kids, it doesn’t matter where they are. I am just trying to make a small difference.”