Belfast Telegraph

Family's pride as £1m charity cash ensures the dreams of Charlene Barr live on

By Michelle Weir

A fundraising drive in memory of a young Northern Ireland woman who died after a battle with cystic fibrosis has passed the £1m mark.

The initiative has been taken forward by the parents of Charlene Barr.

Charlene, from Lurgan, died at the age of 20 while waiting for a double lung transplant.

She had suffered from cystic fibrosis and other health issues since birth, spending the first year of her life in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.

The charity in her memory - Charlene's Project - has now raised more than £1m for impoverished children in developing countries.

The fundraising was begun by Charlene herself.

Her father Dr Dickie Barr recalled how she decided to build a school in Uganda on the day she was told she needed the lung transplant.

She had been inspired by the poverty-stricken village she had visited with her family at Christmas 2008.

Mr Barr explained: "When her mum Janice and I told her it was too ambitious a plan, she asked: 'Do you not believe in the power of God and do you not believe in the generosity of the people of Northern Ireland?'.

"Charlene was right, and five months later the £70,000 needed was raised. We never could have imagined that, at this stage, we could have raised over £1m.

"Charlene didn't see the school built, she passed away at the end of October 2010, the very weekend the ground was broken to begin the school build. But the project she started has continued and is fulfilling all the hopes and dreams she had written down in her diaries before she died.

"Over £1m has been spent on education and health projects in the very needy areas where Charlene's Project works.

"We will just keep going as long as we are supported."

Mr Barr praised the generosity of the local people who have funded Charlene's Project over the years.

"People have given us so much support, it is just incredible what people here have achieved," he added.

"Charlene was wise beyond her years.

"I would want her to be proud of what has been accomplished."

Charlene's Project has extended beyond Uganda to Guatemala in Central America, and to work with Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey.

In Uganda, the initiative has raised funds for the building of the Hidden Treasure Primary School and provided a borehole and clean water at Kahara Primary School, as well as a community hall at the school the following year.

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