Green Schools

It’s lashing rain and there are brollies up all over Beruti. It rained heavily throughout the night, reminding me of home as I lay awake listening to it beat against windows.

I thought of my new friend Luz, the English primary head, whose son gets married today. She was relying on good weather for the garden reception, expecting Argentinian not Irish weather..

My Ideas - 10Our Argentinian friends aren’t happy with this changeable weather. Understandably, they blame climate change and El Niño, shake their heads, complaining it’s not normal.

It’s December, nearly summer and it should be sunny. They’re used to sun in Argentina, it’s dependable, it’s on the flag.

Except we can no longer depend on traditional weather patterns.

World leaders met at the Paris Climate Summit recently to agree decisive actions to fight global warming. Thankfully, schools around the world are already leading the way.

My home school, Blarney Street CBS, Cork is about to be awarded its sixth Green Flag, this time for Global Citizenship. This distinction is given by Green-Schools, known internationally as Eco-Schools, an international environmental education programme which acknowledges long-term, whole school action.

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Thanks to the leadership of teachers, Noreen Guiney and Kieran Murphy, our Green School committee ,of students and staff, has been awarded flags for water and energy conservation, waste management , transport and promoting biodiversity.

Over here in Colegio Cardenal Newman, I also see teachers like Daniel in the secondary and Vivienne and Giorgi in the primary  working on whole-school environmental projects.

Blarney Street and Newman have so much good practice to share  that it is wonderful that Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders (EREBB) provides a network and platform for us to cooperate.

Since arriving I have made wonderful friends in Newman The principals, Leo, Mauje, Luz and Silvia, welcomed me with a hug on the first day and invited me into the school, explaining their systems and procedures. They are good company and we have plenty to talk about as we share a huge enthusiasm for teaching and learning.

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It’s incredible for me to be on the other side of the world and as far from Ireland as I can possibly get, yet  I can slot in to daily life here.

I fit in because teachers all over the world have so much in common. Teaching is a wonderful profession with shared goals, understanding and camaraderie.

I have so many teacher friends and now after this trip I have even more. I really hope it stops raining for my friend Luz´s wedding

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Good Luck Argentina!

We’re backing Los Pumas all the way now!

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Darragh and I were dreading going in last Monday, but it turned out to be a lovely occasion. I spoke at assembly, congratulated Los Pumas and told the boys that we were really proud of Ireland`s effort too.

After speaking, we helped to raise the Argentine flag over the school while the children sang the anthem.  The ceremony takes place every morning but our show of support caused quite a stir especially when I told them that my Irish friends wished them well and wanted Argentina to beat Australia.

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The boys didn`t believe me. They were adamant that I should be for Australia because Argentina knocked Ireland out of the World Cup.

I’ve spent the week being the most popular man in Newman. Everybody wanted to to tease me about Ireland losing but also to ask if I was really for Argentina.

Of course I’m for Los Pumas; the three of us really hope they do it.

Tomorrow is a hugely historic day for the country. Not because of the rugby but because of the general election.  The economy is in big trouble here with serious inflation and Argentina isolated financially.

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Current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is standing down as she has reached her two-term limit so tomorrow Argentinians will elect a new president for the first time in eight years.

One of the leading candidates is Mauricio Macri who is mayor of Buenos Aires and past pupil of our school, Newman. He refers to his kidnapping in the early 1990s as one of the reasons he took up politics.

He is the former President of Boca Juniors and when asked about the Rugby World Cup ,he said that football in Argentina has a lot to learn from the way rugby fans celebrated together.

Here all away fans are banned from football matches because of the risk of crowd trouble. It’s a pity because football is far and away Argentina`s No 1 sport.

Video clips of the Irish celebrating with Argentinians have been shared on social media all week.  The people I speak to are impressed that the Irish, although obviously gutted by the loss, were so sporting in defeat.

I know, I’m not alone  among the Irish  in hoping that Argentina has a great day tomorrow both in Twickenham and at the poll booth.

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Nach fánach an áit a bhfaighfeá gliomach!

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My friend Gary and I exchanged a quick few words while cycling one Sunday morning in Cork. When I told him I was thinking of going to the Brothers` school in Buenos Aires, he replied that his cousin, Thady O’Brien, had been a Christian Brother in Argentina but that he knew nothing about him. He sped off and we spoke no more about it but I decided to keep an eye out.

It slipped my mind completely especially with the Rugby World Cup and the hype in the school about the Argentinian Top 14 semi-final; Club Newman play CUBA on Saturday. Newman has never won the Argentine Championship so the students are delirious at the prospect of a first national title. They bubble with enthusiasm and pride about `La Barra del Timbal` Newman`s noisy die-hard supporters.

Many mentioned Manolo, a deceased Christian Brother who was the driving force of rugby in Newman and the club’s No 1 fan for many years. He’s pictured on the club’s advertisements for the semi-final. Newman fans told me that the club’s grounds are named after him and display a plaque, written in Irish, in his honour. Br Timothy O Brien, they called him. Timothy? Thady? Manolo? The Brothers confirmed that Gary`s cousin, Thady from Cappamore, was the famous Hermano Manolo, beloved by all in Newman.

Thady came to Argentina in 1962, reluctantly. Steeped in Irish culture, sport and music, he had a great love of the Irish language and was a member of Ógra Éireann. Leaving Ireland was a huge sacrifice for him but he did so, obeying religious superiors. Argentina fitted him like a glove and the Argentines appreciated his quick wit, easy manner and sense of fun. Everybody knew Thady and enjoyed him, soon calling him Manolo, a playful moniker for his Latino ways. His beloved hurling wasn’t to be found locally so he transferred his passion to rugby, becoming a hero for La Barra del Timbal.

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Manolo had a great sense of humour, great faith and a natural way with people. The teachers here still get emotional when you mention him. One teacher showed me his picture that hangs in her home. Another took off her wedding ring and showed me the inscription that Manolo had helped her with, `Mo ghrá thú`. Manolo had prayed with them, laughed with them and taught them Irish; they loved him.

Manolo’s name lives on. My school Blarney Street CBS raised money, with Midleton CBS, for the Centro Hermano Manolo, which provides education for street children in Cochabamba, Bolivia. We`ll visit there in February.

Gary, be very proud of Thady, he’s a legend! Vamos Newman!

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http://www.clubnewman.com.ar/

The Irish Christian Brothers in Buenos Aires

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Our school in Buenos Aires is Cardenal Newman College, founded by the Irish Christian Brothers in 1948. Since the 1840s, many Irish immigrants had arrived in Argentina and the Irish Community had pleaded with the Brothers for many years to set up a school. They set up a wonderful college, moving to a beautiful site in San Isidro in 1970. Newman  operates in the Edmund Rice tradition and values academic achievement, faith formation, sport, community and parental involvement. Parents and past pupils are involved in the school`s extensive outreach pastoral programs. In my first few days I saw how the school community gathered clothes, food and drinking water for the unfortunate homes flooded in Lujan.
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One of the Brothers, Br. Thomas, travelled by bus and train to Buenos Aires on our first few nights to visit and make sure we were alright. Rain and thunder didn’t deter him and it was lovely to see a friendly face and hear a familiar accent. He arrived with a smile and was wonderful company recounting anecdotes about Galway, hurling and his time in Montevideo and Buenos Aires.  He cares and it shows, drawing the best out of people as he stands every morning, at the college entrance, welcoming pupils, parents and staff by name. He travels around Buenos Aires on public buses and trains chatting to locals and visiting hospitals. He has a kind word or a joke for everyone and is highly-regarded and loved by the Newman Community.
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I know Br. Burke in Ireland, he was principal of Newman for eighteen years. Each principal brought something different to Newman and Br. Burke had a profound influence on the school community, expanding arts education, nurturing music, art and creativity. Whenever his name comes up in conversation, it’s clear that past pupils and staff revere him. They say that he left a huella (a footprint) on the school encouraging and inspiring those around him. This impressive college in Buenos Aires is a lasting legacy of the Irish Christian Brothers’ commitment to education.