One of Ireland’s most popular singers has launched a charity single for the Christmas market after making a 20,000km round-trip to record it.
Multi award winning Tommy Fleming travelled to Rwanda to record ‘Give A Little Bit’ – the 1977 hit by Supertramp – with local teenagers in support of Irish aid agency Bóthar’s Christmas appeal.
The appeal is focussed on widows of the horrific Rwandan genocide of 1994 and, particularly, on supporting the government’s ‘One Cow Per Family’ programme aimed at reducing extreme rural poverty by providing every family with a cow.
The song was recorded by Tommy with students from Rwamagana High School in east Rwanda. It is available to download from Spotify, iTunes and other online outlets via Bóthar’s website www.bothar.ie . A four-part series of short videos documenting the trip will also be broadcast on Bóthar’s social media platforms on Mondays, stating this Monday, November 12th at 7p.m.
Tommy took time out of a busy schedule in the run up to the September recording of Voice of Hope II – the much-awaited follow-up to his Voice of Hope album, his biggest selling album to date – to travel to the tiny African nation. Rwanda is still in recovery mode from the horrific genocide of 1994 which triggered the bloodiest 90 days in the history of the world as up to 1million people were slaughtered in a country slightly larger than Munster.
Almost a quarter of a century later, however, Rwanda is now one of Africa’s most peaceful nations but one still gripped by hardship. Bóthar has lifted thousands of families from poverty there with the gift of in-calf Irish dairy heifers and other food and income producing animals since it began operations in Rwanda 21 years ago and it was this work that attracted the Sligo native’s attention.
“I come from a farming background as my parents were small dairy farmers so it’s in my DNA. When I looked more into what Bóthar do, I thought my parents would just have loved this idea so I was only too delighted to travel out, see the projects and record the song,” said Tommy.
“We spent a week there in the summer when it was actually warmer back home. We got out into the heart of Rwanda to meet families, whose daily lives are about survival. We met with genocide widows and saw first-hand how the gift of Irish cows to them has transformed their lives.
“One woman, for example, had five of her nine children and her husband killed in the genocide. You would wonder how someone could go on after that and when we arrived the smiles and tears just flowed. It was as if we were representing a country that had given her family the winning lotto ticket. You just stood there humbled by it all. We’ve never experienced anything remotely like this.
“The cow she got from Bóthar gave her some bit of hope. She was able to raise what was left of her family and subsequently her grandchildren from this single cow as every year since she got that cow, Bóthar was back to put the cow back in calf. The gift kept going on and on and is still giving to her today.”
Working with the children on the song was, however, one of the Sligo singer’s career highlights. “I’ve had many, many great moments in the music industry but recording with these kids was one of the very best. They have an incredible sense of positivity despite having so little. We met them first on a Sunday, rehearsed with them on a Tuesday and on the Wednesday performed with them in front of a small crowd but an influential one as it included a number of government officials,” he continued.
“The kids have little English but music is a universal language. When we met them, we asked them to sing to see what they’ve got. They broke out into ‘Perfect’ from Ed Sheeran and we just looked at each other and said ‘this is going to be fantastic’. We had so little time to prepare but they nailed it. That night we sang in Kigali with them was really, really special.”
Donations for Bóthar’s Christmas appeal range from €10 for a guinea fowl to €1,800 for an in-calf Irish dairy heifer and right up to €25,000 for a Bóthar Ark – enough to purchase animals to look after 85 families. For more information on Bóthar go to www.bothar.ie