While the Government has reneged on its aid commitments to the third world, the people of South Kilkenny, Carrick-on-Suir and East Waterford continue to steadfastly support the children of Cape Town.

That was the assertion made by Friends of Zelda’s House Chairman John Crowley, who thanked his charity’s 149 donors during its AGM, which was held at Langton’s in Kilkenny on Tuesday last.

Mr Crowley, a Mooncoin-based farmer, proved fulsome in praise for his colleagues and didn’t hold back in his criticism of the Fianna Fáil/Green coalition.

“It annoys me that Bertie Ahern, when Taoiseach, stood before world leaders at the Millennium Summit in Johannesburg and made a commitment that 0.7 per cent of Irish GDP would be earmarked for foreign aid by October 2007. That still has not been achieved, which is disgraceful in my view.”

Mr Crowley added: “Our Government, to its eternal shame, has still not honoured this commitment to the poor of the world, just like the many more they’ve let down here at home. To have given false hope in the manner they did and to do so in such a public forum is something the Government ought to be ashamed of.”

John Crowley then switched his focus to the donors which support the Friends of Zelda’s House, a Cape Town-based charity which not only assists children and their mothers but strengthens the bonds between both.

“And when you compare the Government’s attitude to that of the donors of Zelda’s House, the difference couldn’t be more stark,” he continued.

“To have 150 donors, some providing €5 a month, others €15 a month and a very generous donor donating €400 a month, to remain so committed to these children at the other end of the world during such an uncertain time at home, is just something else.

“Words can’t get across my gratitude to every single one of them. We’re lucky to have so many exceptional people on board.”

In the past year, John said that the coverage which this newspaper had afforded the Friends of Zelda’s House had inspired one local individual to donate €1,000.

“The Munster Express has been brilliant to us from the moment we first got in touch nearly five years ago,” said John.

“Unlike some other newspapers that we contacted at the time, ever since we first corresponded with The Munster, we have been afforded great coverage of our activities.

“That it led one person to contribute €1,000 shows the positive effect that a newspaper can bring to bear on its readers, so I’m very thankful to The Munster Express for its continued support. It is deeply appreciated.”

The past year has been one of growth for the charity, with Treasurer Sean Aylward happy to report that during 2008, a total of just over €33,000 was donated to Zelda’s House.

This year to date, €2,813 has been sent to Cape Town, with more monies to follow during 2009.

“We had some fantastic donations during 2008,” said John Crowley. “We had a bag pack which raised €1350 and had another wonderful €1,000 contribution from Michael and Alice Blanchfield of Blanchfields Centra, just two of 149 that I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to.”

On February 17th, thanks to the monies sent from South Kilkenny and its environs, Zelda’s House co-ordinator Ronni Mehl was on hand to receive a new 16-seater mini bus in Cape Town.

The bus, proudly emblazoned with a shamrock, will ferry children to and from Zelda’s House, where they learn and play.

“We originally aimed to provide 50 per cent funding for the bus, but things have gone so well in terms of support at home that we ended up paying for it in full, which was great,” said John.

The Friends of Zelda’s House, which falls under the ‘Women In Need’ umbrella, is extremely grateful for the support it receives from Ireland. Both Ms Mehl and Sharmelia Cornelius of WIN visited Mooncoin last year to express their gratitude to donors.

“If it wasn’t for your help, we couldn’t do what we do,” said Ms Cornelius. “Improving the lives of mothers and their children and strengthening the bond between mother and child is difficult to put a value on.”