Change for the better: Arlene Harris, Irish Examiner Nov 23,2007

SMALL CHANGE by Arlene Harris

Please Don’t Forget Us – this was the moving request from some of the poorest people on earth to the Fitzpatrick family from Cork as they bid farewell to Africa after two months living and working with people less fortunate than themselves.

In 2005, Pat and Johanna Fitzpatrick and their four children, embarked on a life-altering mission to Mzuzu in Northern Malawi to visit their friend, Fr John Ryan who has spent almost thirty years trying to alleviate suffering and deprivation in this corner of the globe.

Johanna and her family were so disturbed by the hardship they encountered in the seventh poorest country in the world that they vowed never to forget the people of Mzuzu and upon return to Ireland set up a fundraising project.

“The visit affected all of us deeply,” says Johanna “We had never been to Africa before and didn’t what to expect. It was all a culture shock, but we were amazed at how soon we got to love the people and the place – Malawi is known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’, and the people are the reason why – they are so hospitable, smiling and loving.”

“We decided that we couldn’t, and didn’t want to forget them,” she says. “So we came up with the idea of Small Change. “The name signifies that we are trying to make small changes for the people of Mzuzu but it also means that what we in the West often regard as ‘small change’ in monetary terms can make a huge difference in Africa.”

Last year the Fitzpatrick family put together a calendar using photographs taken on their trip. They printed 1,250 copies and managed to raise €35,000. This year they hope to increase that figure and help purchase basic commodities such as blankets, food, fertilizer and building supplies for Fr Ryan’s African parishioners.

“The poverty we encountered in Mzuzu is beyond what any of us could have imagined,” Johanna says. The people there are coming in to the hardest and hungriest time of the year now and as we begin to make plans for spending millions celebrating Christmas and New Year they contemplate the possibility of starvation, and death.”

You can help make a difference to their lives by:
 Buying the 2008 Small Change calendar
 Attending the Table Quiz in Garryduff on December 6th
 Carol singing on 22nd December in the Mahon Centre
 Making a donation

For more information contact or call 021 4343851
To find out more about Fr John Ryan’s work visit


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