Donegal’s value of community brought around the world

A YOUNG man who grew up in Cranford is now bringing his unique understanding of the value of strong community to those less fortunate.

Paul Carr works with the Irish charity Concern and has witnessed the struggle of street children in Bangladesh.

The 34 year-old is now in Rwanda where he has seen strong community building bring people together and work through unbelievable trauma.


Paul told the Donegal News how his journey into overseas development began.

“In my teens and early twenties, I’d always had an inclination to work in overseas development but didn’t think I had the right skillset or resilience. I studied Communications at DCU and then spent a number of years working in Canada and Japan. Eventually after a lot of research, I came back to Ireland to begin a Masters in International Development.

“As soon as I graduated I began working with Concern in internal communications, combining both my passions. It gave me such a deep understanding of their projects and I got to travel and see the impact of the work on the ground,” he explained.

In Bangladesh, where Concern worked with street dwellers, he saw the level of abuse, trauma and individual unique hardships that children and young people experience there and found it hard to comprehend.

“It remains one of the most impactful experiences in my career. I spoke with teenage girls, and the level of trauma and abuse they can face on a daily basis is staggering. They might have lost their mother, then been shipped off as a domestic slave to another part of the country or, for various reasons, had become homeless and have no-one.

“They would tell me on the streets that they would tie each other’s arms together with strings so that if one of the children or girls was taken away in the night at least the person next to them would be alerted. Not to be able to save them, but so they knew what had happened. The intensity of the hardship these girls experience is staggering,” he said.

Paul was staggered at the level of personal resilience.


“These girls have personal resilience but they have hopes and dreams like every other teenager,” he says.

Concern’s drop-in centre there meant they had somewhere to go, to get support and pathways to education and jobs they could enjoy.

Much of the support was around building mental health and confidence so that they could have a different life and then empowering them with the skills they need.

“When a girl came back to update us on her new life, perhaps in a job she enjoyed and with a family, what struck me was their sense of belonging to their community, for perhaps the first time in their lives,” he added.
He attributes the sense of belonging he had growing up in Cranford as the reason he had the confidence to make his way in the world.
Paul’s work in Rwanda is called Graduation and is aimed at poor households to get out of extreme poverty in a way that is sustainable and holistic.
“Rwanda is known as the land of the 1,000 hills and it reminds me so much of Donegal, where of course there are countless songs about the hills of Donegal. When I go home, I’m embraced back into the community, where my brothers and sister all play in local sports and I can go to the local pub and know I’ll find friends there,” he added.
He explained that the recent history of Rwanda is very dark. The genocide was a dark spot in global as well as local history.
“Yet in a very short space of time, both as a national community and throughout local communities, people have banded together to work past that unbelievable trauma and build very cohesive, warm compassionate communities, who are really looking out for each other. I have Rwandan friends here who lost family and now they build a community together, caring about their neighbours.”
Paul believes that charity comes from compassion and that sense you want to look after your neighbour.
“That is also at the heart of Donegal. My grandmother died when I was ten, but she was known locally as someone who swam Mulroy Bay most days.
“In memory of this, the community in Cranford teamed up with RNLI and started an annual fundraising event, the Madge Carr Memorial Mulroy Bay Swim. That is just one very small example where people understand the power of community and charity.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland