Belfast Telegraph

Charities in plea after fire guts Tanzanian centre

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

A crucial Northern Ireland project helping disabled and destitute Tanzanian women has been dealt a hammer blow after a fire gutted their training centre in the east African country.

Two Belfast charities called Disability Aid Abroad (DAA) and Tools For Solidarity (TFS) are now urging anyone with spare sewing machines to get in touch after the blaze gutted the Mwanza Sewing and Tailoring Centre.

The fire started in a coffee processing unit in an industrial compound in the Lake Victoria city and spread to the centre, completely destroying the building along with 400 sewing and knitting machines and materials used to provide training.

The centre was built in 2007 by TFS. Since then it has provided more than 1,800 reconditioned sewing machines and training to rural women, including 390 disabled women.

All of the disability training run by DAA has been cancelled and it is trying to find alternative temporary accommodation.

John Coghlan, international director of DAA, said: "All the women we train are destitute, beggars, so it's their way out of abject poverty.

"They set up co-operatives, it's a real lifeline to them, so the fire will have a devastating effect on the women and their families.

"We had been due to train 40 women this week but that had to be cancelled and it's unlikely that training will restart until 2014."

Mr Coghlan is a retired RTE cameraman, originally from Dublin, but living in Belfast for the last 40 years. He said he felt compelled to take on a charity role after his experience covering war zones.

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