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Edited 30th Jan 2021 - Due to international travel restrictions out of Ireland and no clarification on "essential travel" at this time. We have had to postpone the trip until August 2021. Thankyou for your continued support and patience at this time, the decision was taken completely out of our hands. The trek, the donations to the Tanzanian children, the orphanage and school visit and also journey to the Maasai tribe with educational supplies will all go ahead as planned in August. We will hope to document our journey and show it on our return - Lenore x

Edited Jan 2021 - Four of us are due to travel to Tanzania next month, myself and my daughter are cocooning for weeks in the run up to the trip, only leaving the house for training and medical appointments. A COVID test will be done before we leave Ireland and another before we leave Tanzania, in order to travel safely you have to provide a negative test to board the aircraft. We are in regular contact with those living in Tanzania and are monitoring the situation very closely. The challenges will be on this side and we are checking travel updates on all legs of the journey for any updates and or new requirements for travel. All is going to plan currently. 

Edited to add - Due to travel restrictions with COVID19 the new date for the climb is now confirmed for February 2021, the three original people who were due to go have pulled out of the trip and my eldest daughter will accompany me.

As a mother of six children, four on the autism spectrum, two of whom attended both Sonas Junior School and Shine Early Learning Unit and a recipient of an assistance dog with the Irish Guide Dogs, I am very passionate about raising funds for these organizations as I see first hand the difference that they can make for families living with autism.

Being recently diagnosed with Aspergers myself this year, I want to take this challenge on and prove that anyone can make a difference when you have the determination, drive and support behind you. People have always been very supportive of my journey to date and I am lucky enough to have a bit of help undertaking this mahoosive task as my daughter Shea (18) will be coming along with me, we are absolutely bricking it but determined to do this.

We are under no illusions as to how much of challenge this will be, we will be undergoing individual training for the next few months and have had some fantastic events and prizes pre COVID like the trip to Madrid, the Harry Potter underground cinema in Camden Fort where someone won a trip the HP Studios in London. The infamous Sex and The City day where someone won a trip to NYC amongst other amazing raffles in between all supported by amazing local businesses and people.

I will be covering the cost of my own trek, by paying half of the €4k cost myself and having a sponsor who will cover the rest, as I really want to donate all fundraising direct to the charities. The always supportive Evening Echo will be covering a monthly feature where I will be talking about it all and updating everyone on the process right up to the actual journey itself. 

We have to climb 19,341 ft and are asking if people could sponsor us €1 per foot up and back down the mountain for a total of 36,862 ft in euro. We were aiming for #20KforKilimanJ and  surpassed that last year, we would still love if people could get behind it, share this, donate a euro, host a coffee morning etc as we will keep the link going until we complete the trek and return from Tanzania.

The onus being that all monies raised will be split between Sonas, Shine and the Irish Guide Dogs which will in turn help other children and their families down the line, who are in need of their services, keeping the cycle going and paying it forward.

While out in Tanzania we will be visiting two orphanages for whom we have collected over 600 pairs of shoes, over 1500 pencils, 500 erasers, 600 sharpeners, 75 skipping ropes, 55 footballs, travel games and lots of other bits which have been kindly donated over the month of October. I will ship this ahead of our arrival and hope to capture the kids reactions when we meet them in February. 

Why climb Kilimanjaro for these 3 Irish charities, you ask?

Well lads in an ideal world, Id fundraise for everyone as there are so many worthy charities and schools, I think it is imperative right now to support those who I have a personal connection with and can stand behind and say are life changing for families, including ours.

Having a child/ren with special or additional needs, first of all the lack of school places is a huge problem right now, so even finding a school is something, but one where your child is given life skills, toileting skills, being helped to communicate and encouraged as per their individual needs is huge. They help to give them a foundation which sets them up for their future, the work done by both Sonas and Shine is monumental in helping families, which I have witnessed first hand. 

Shine Centre for Autism are based in Carrigaline, Co. Cork and work with children and teenagers aged between 2.5yrs and 16 years of age. They work with approx 80 children and teenagers, their parents, carers and educators on a weekly basis. Two of my own children have attended Shine ELU and if you have been following my Out in the Sticks with Six page you will have seen our journey and witnessed the difference that their services have made. 

Our family has availed of the free counselling for parents and a workshop for siblings with autism. My children ran in there and waited patiently for the door to open, it was like a switch had been flicked, they lit up and they just came on in leaps and bounds, making huge strides both socially and in a learning capacity. They learned skills we were then able to transfer to home, like drinking from a cup, potty training, eating, they have been instrumental in supporting us, as parents in our journey and the hundreds of other parents with the free advocacy service they provide.

You always hear people talk about the importance of early intervention, at Shine they provide this and more. The Shine Centre is part funded by the HSE Disability Services and Dept of Special Education. This funding does not cover the cost of the services they provide, they need to raise in excess of €100,000 per annum to keep all of their services and programmes running. 

Sonas Junior Special School is an Early Intervention school for children aged 3-6 years with a diagnois of Autism. The school was set up in 2003 by the Department of Education and Science and is located in Carrigaline, outside Cork. Each class of six pupils is taught by a fully qualified teacher working with a team of 2-3 special needs assistants. The philosophy of Sonas is that each child is an individual with certain unique capacities and talents and are taught accordingly. 

My son (6) attended Sonas for two years and my daughter (4) is now in her first year here and it has been and is a huge part of their life, she has become this independent and happy little girl who waits by the door each morning for her transport to travel to school. He not only has made friends, which as parents of a child with additional or special needs you always worry about, but he availed of this amazing social setting and been introduced to things like music and art therapy, they all went on outings as a class (pre COVID) even to the local shop to learn the basics of buying an item, they then have brought those items back to the school and they have even tried cookery. My son has learned huge life skills, like how to dress independently, how to communicate using his core board and pecs and can now verbalise how he is feeling using emotions, something as simple as this means huge reductions in anxiety and meltdowns in our household as he is now being understood. My daughter is slowly making strides but has come on immensely since she started in September 2020.

In 2019 monies raised helped cover the costs of tax and insurance for a mini bus that was generously donated to the school which now takes the students on outings like swimming or to parks outside the local vicinity.  I cannot express how much each child is treated with the utmost of care and respect, not just my own child but any child of a parent you talk to who has attended Sonas. They are in the process right now of building a new school as the current accommodations mean the 42 students who attend there are split between two buildings across the town of Carrigaline which isn't ideal. Any monies raised will be used towards therapies the children need throughout the school year and hopefully towards any of their additional costs and needs for the new and or current dwelling. 

Everyone will be familiar with the Irish Guide Dogs and the amazing work that they provide, not only for those who are visually impaired but also for families living with autism with their assistance dog programme. We were one of 60 lucky families chosen nationwide through a strict application process in 2019 to avail of this amazing service. 

The help of an assistance dog can be life changing for families, it is personally speaking for our family, the difference between leaving the house or not. An assistance or guide dog can give independence and safety to my child and create a sense of massive independence and accomplishment. We have never been on a holiday together, never been to a restaurant, haven't ever taken the kids to a cinema, even the thoughts of being able to get our dog a pet passport and being able to travel is mind blowing for us, Jesus, even the thoughts of going for a meal is a huge achievement and with our assistance dog this will be possible in time.

The dogs were initially trained as a safety aid to prevent a child from bolting and being a flight risk but now the Irish Guide Dogs have found benefits such as improved communication skills, social activities, more confidence etc. We received our beautiful girl, Ebbi in October 2019 and she has been an incredible asset to our family. As a family who has multiple children on the spectrum this has made a massive difference for all of us. She was matched with my son (6) and helps him when he has meltdowns, she gravitates to the youngest when he is not here, she helps my daughter sleep in her own room. When I was very sick in April 2020 she alerted my husband in the middle of the night and stayed parked outside my bedroom for two weeks. I cant remember life without her and I dont want to!

They receive 85% of their income through voluntary donations and fundraising, it will cost €5 million to run their organization just this year. The work done is phenomenal, from volunteers who help with puppy raising and socialisation, right up to age 14 months where they are early training with an instructor learning how to cross roads, stop at kerbs, deal with traffic, noise, take on public transport, learn how to behave in restaurants. They have to reach a very high standard to become a qualified guide or assistance dog. 

At 22 months old, having been matched with their owner they attend residential classes together at the training centre in Cork. Once the dog and their owner return home, the instructors will do a lot of visits to make sure all is going well and maybe help with local routes or particular needs the family has. 

A guide/assistance dog will then retire at the age of 10, where they hand back their jacket and sometimes be rehomed with a family, if the particular person requires a new dog to help with living, in a lot of circumstances the families will keep their dog as a pet for the remainder of their life. The process is amazing but it costs €52,000 to train each dog. Any monies raised will go back to these amazing people to help train a dog for another visually impaired person or for an assistance dog to help another family. 

Any donation, however small would be hugely appreciated for all, thank you for your support. 

If you would like to help and participate in your school, choose our fundraiser as your donation through work or even host a coffee morning please message me as events and charities have suffered immensely due to the pandemic and fundraisers all being cancelled which they rely heavily on to keep their services going. Many thanks for your continued support and help throughout the last year, it has been a rollercoaster and a half but I appreciate you sticking with me and my mad ideas! 


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