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Irish Famine Memorial Fund Having World-Wide Impact

A grant from the Boston College Irish Famine Memorial Fund was used to purchase educational materials for a school in the Our Lady of Fatima parish in Uganda. (Photos courtesy of the grant recipient)

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff

Published: May 22, 2014

In its own quiet way, Boston College’s Irish Famine Memorial (IFM) Fund, endowed through a generous gift from the family of late University Trustee and benefactor Thomas Flatley, has made real-world differences in some of the neediest communities across the globe.

The fund was established in 2010 to provide financial or material support to alumni and other individuals associated with Boston College who are committed to alleviating poverty, disease, famine and illiteracy in foreign countries or in the United States — a tribute to Flatley, an Irish immigrant who came to America and became a successful businessman and philanthropist. Since its establishment, the IFM Fund has supported projects and students in more than 20 countries.

The IFM Fund has provided financial assistance to students who commit to returning to their native country, where they will use their education to assist people in their homeland. More than three dozen students from countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Ghana, Malaysia, Senegal, Vietnam and Zambia have received scholarships for graduate studies at the University.

The fund has also underwritten projects that meet educational, agricultural, housing and transportation needs in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

“Speaking for my sister Kathleen and my other siblings, I know our father’s deepest-held dream that flowed from his Irish soul was to leave something behind that would go to alleviate extreme suffering and deprivation, such as endured by the Irish during the Famine of the 1840s,” said Dan Flatley, MA ’89. “We are privileged indeed to be part of this new initiative at Boston College to provide some aid and comfort to those in dire need around the world. BC is the right place for this.”

Irish Famine Memorial funds also were used for rain barrels for the Our Lady of Fatima parish community. (Photos courtesy of the grant recipient)

One recipient of IFM Fund grants is St. Peter Claver High School, a Jesuit school in Tanzania, which received funds to purchase computers and playground and sports equipment. IFM funds also have been approved to develop a well to provide much needed water to support the school’s growing enrollment.

“Our school community – Jesuits, students, faculty and staff –is grateful for the support,” said Brother Joseph Badokufa Bulugu, SJ, MEd ’12, who serves as assistant principal at St. Peter Claver.

Another grant recipient has been TECHO, a non-profit organization that constructs transitional housing in approximately 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Specifically, the IFM Fund has underwritten the construction of about 100 units of housing in Haiti and Nicaragua.

At a meeting earlier this month, the IFM Fund Committee extended funding for 26 current Boston College graduate students and awarded scholarships to an additional 13 graduate students pursuing studies in the School of Theology and Ministry, Graduate School of Social Work, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and in the graduate programs of the Carroll School of Management and the Lynch School of Education. The committee also approved funding for water wells at a diocesan high school in Uganda and the purchase of land for a farm for the new Loyola Jesuit Secondary School in Malawi. The farmland will provide food for the school, which is being established by the Zambia-Malawi Province, as well as serve as a training site for the school’s agricultural program.

Past IFM Fund grants have supported the building of classrooms in Rwanda for a school run by the Benebikira Sisters and transportation for Jesuits in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ongoing support by the IFM Fund to Our Lady of Fatima parish in Uganda has led to the installation of water tanks, latrines, and rain barrels; the purchase of books and school supplies, and the creation of a school lunch program. Work is underway to build an irrigation system to support a sustainable agriculture program in the community.

The IFM Fund also is committed to assisting Boston College students who seek to participate in programs that aid the needy in foreign countries or the US. For example, two BC alumni volunteered last year with the Sisters of Mercy in Kingston, Jamaica, under IFM Fund sponsorship. The fund also supported the Connell School of Nursing’s trip to the Dominican Republic earlier this year and has already earmarked money for next year’s trip.