Warrenpoint footballer Ryan McAleenan sets off to Kenya for once in a lifetime trip
Down and Warrenpoint Gaelic footballer Ryan McAleenan was one of 50 GAA players who set off for Kenya on Friday afternoon for the Warriors for Humanity Plant the Planet Games.
Organised by the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA), players from all over Ireland will aim to plant one million trees in Africa, with the hope that hundreds of thousands of families will be able to live off these trees for long into the future.
Before jetting off, McAleenan spoke to the Newry Reporter about the project.
“Our aim is to plant one million trees in Africa, and in order to do that, each player is tasked with raising €10,000,” he said.
“The reasons for planting trees are: income, it helps to prevent soil erosion, improves soil equality, it is a source of food.
“It’s a chance for all of the players from the GPA to leave a lasting legacy, and it’s something that you will always be remembered for. So, it’s an exciting opportunity.”
The group’s itinerary includes an All Stars GAA match in Nairobi Rugby Club, and a meeting with the Irish Ambassador for Kenya, before they spend the rest of the week travelling around the country, meeting its people, learning of their cultures, and of course, planting the trees.
As for how the opportunity came up for McAleenan to do this, he explained how a career-ending injury led to him seeking help and advice from the GPA, and how through the GPA this experience came up.
“I badly injured my knee last August, and I had to hang up the boots,” he said.“That transition of knowing that I had to finish football, I struggled with. My wife advised me to maybe go and speak to someone to try and get support with it, rather than going through it myself.
“So, I got in touch with the GPA, and they were extremely helpful, especially the representative for my area, Arron Graffin.
“Through conversation and different sessions that they did in helping me with the transition of not being able to play anymore, the opportunity came up to go on this trip and to be a part of it.”
McAleenan has never done anything like this before, but he believed that the time was right to give it a go this year.
“It’s always something that I wanted to do,” he explained.“When I was in school growing up, I wanted to do something like this but the opportunity never came up, and the older I got I presumed that maybe the opportunity was gone.“Thankfully this came up, and I suppose I see it as an opportunity to do it before life takes over. I spoke to Kevin McKernan [Burren and Down footballer], because he went on the trip last year. He told me that it is a life-changing experience, and he came back from it a different person.”
In terms of fundraising, McAleenan isn’t quite there just yet, but he is edging very closely to his target, and he remains determined to meet it.
If you would like to donate, you can do so online at: https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/RyanMcAleenan