Music makes the people come together sang Madonna, and a unique new collaboration between schoolchildren in Clonakilty, Co. Cork and schoolchildren of the nomadic Samburu tribe of Northern Kenya really proves her point.
Launching the Irish and Kenyan song and video “Butterfly Child” on iTunes this week, the money raised from sales of the single will help fund the much-needed expansion of the Thorn Tree Project’s work (the organization helps to educate nomadic Samburu children in Kenya from kindergarten through to college), greatly improving their education and employment opportunities. It's exactly the sort of good news story that the world needs more of right now.
The determined powerhouse behind the Irish/Kenyan fundraising song is Marilien Romme, a Cork-based friend of internationally acclaimed Irish-born, New York-based designer Clodagh. It's become a labor of love for the Irish designer, as she has devoted much of the last decade in support of the Thorn Tree Project as its vice president.
The brilliantly vivid new video, which arrives just in time for Christmas 2015, features the Clonakilty children of Scoil na mBuachailli alternating verses with Thorn Tree students in Kenya, in a bit of music wizardry that combines distinctively Irish music with Sub-Saharan African chanting.
The Samburu tribe are known throughout Africa as the Butterfly People in reference to their colorful robes, jewelry and head-gear, and this was also the inspiration for the name of the new song, written by Clonakilty primary school principal Barth Harrington.
For over 10 years the Thorn Tree Project has had a demonstrable impact on the Samburu tribe, dramatically increasing the number of children supported through its education outreach. The numbers tell the story. In 2001 there were just 130 children in school but today over 1,500 children attend school in one of the 12 pre-schools and three elementary schools of the Thorn Tree Project.
The hope is now to put some of the most promising students through college. Clodagh told the Irish Voice, “It gladdens my heart to see this collaboration between my home country of Ireland and these wonderful schools in Kenya. We've reaching more and more students and we've brought in dormitories and fresh water. We've done a lot of work.”
The Thorn Tree Project doesn't just change the lives of the young students in Kenya of course. It has also changed the lives of the spirited Irish women who have become involved in promoting their welfare.
“I think that any philanthropic project I've ever been involved with is a huge gift when you feel that you can and have made a difference,” says Clodagh. “It's changed the lives of the Irish kids who are involved now too, because they'll never forget it either.”
Kenya-based founder and president of the Thorn Tree Project Jane Newman agreed. “We’re obviously proud of what we’ve done here, but funding is always a challenge, and one that is threatening the ongoing viability of the project,” Newman said.
“Recording the song and the video has been a memorable experience for the children here, and if as a result of sales we can get more children to continue their education and come back as doctors, engineers, teachers and plumbers, then this will have been a double gift.”
In a statement to the press Lord David Putnam, the famed filmmaker who lives in West Cork, said, “This is a wonderful example of the way in which a range of digital technologies has enabled Irish generosity and ingenuity to connect with a great cause on the other side of the world -- and make it sing.”
“Butterfly Child” is now available for purchase on iTunes and a direct donation can also be made on Just Giving with proceeds going toward the education of the Thorn Tree children.