Galway man John Walsh of the Irish Society in Uganda has helped introduce Irish dance to children in Namuwongo, an impoverished area in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
“What great fun the kids have been having recently with their first Irish dancing lessons!” Uganda Hands for Hope, a non-profit working with residents of Kampala, said in a post on February 27.
“Thanks to John Walsh and the Irish Society in Uganda we have been linked with some great professional Irish dancers who will be coming to visit us on St. Patrick's Day, 17th March.
“Teaching the children via YouTube has already begun!”
The Facebook post was accompanied by Ugandan schoolchildren learning the basics of Irish dance via professionals on YouTube.
Irish dancing lessons have begun!
What great fun the kids have been having recently with their first irish dancing lessons! Thanks to John Walsh and the Irish Society in Uganda we have been linked with some great professional irish dancers who will be coming to visit us on St. Patrick's Day, 17th March. Teaching the children via YouTube has already begun!Posted by Uganda Hands for Hope on Monday, February 27, 2023
According to The Guardian, Walsh hatched his Irish dance lesson plan when he visited the school in Namuwongo run by Uganda Hands for Hope and saw that the class had screens for online learning.
Walsh reached out to Jean Kennedy, a current cast member of Michael Flatley’s hit Irish dance production “Lord of the Dance,” and the Irish dancer created an instructional video for the Ugandan schoolchildren from her home in Co Laois.
Less than a month later, fellow “Lord of the Dance” cast members Niamh Shevlin and Ciara Loughran were in Uganda to launch the Irish Dance society at Hands for Hope School, Kampala for St. Patrick's Day.
Posted by Uganda Hands for Hope on Monday, March 20, 2023
Afterward, Shevlin wrote on Instagram: “Being able to bring our cultural dance to these children and even teach them a few steps was an honor.”
View this post on Instagram
Walsh, who lives in Kampala with his wife and two daughters, has helped bring not only Irish dance to Uganda but also GAA.
The Uganda GAA club, founded by friends Moses Amanyire and Robert Bakaza after they came across videos of the sport in 2019, is now fundraising to open the first-ever full-sized GAA pitch on the continent of Africa. Co Kilkenny's Newpark Hotel is lending its support via its 'Kilkenny to Kampala' skills campaign to try and raise €20,000.
Along with the Irish dancers, GAA stars including Kilkenny's Aidan Fogarty were in Uganda this St. Patrick's Day for workshops and demonstrations.
March 12, 2023
Walsh recently told BreakingNews.ie: "There are now five schools learning GAA in Uganda.
"Four of them are near where Moses and Robert are, and there is now the Helping Hands school in a slum area of Kampala. This school was set up by Englishman Joe Cummiskey 20 years ago to help impoverished children get an education.
"I accidentally sent him a skills video instead of to another friend called Joe. He loved it so much, he asked for a few hurls and now the school has been playing GAA since January.
"It really is just a huge heart-warming success story, supported by the Irish which continues to grow."