A CHARLEVILLE man will break the 400,000 mile mark for charity this week as he completes a tight eight-day schedule to deliver in-calf Irish heifers to destitute families and young people across two continents for Limerick aid organisation Bóthar.
Thomas Crowley has already clocked up enough miles delivering animals to impoverished nations for Bóthar to circumnavigate the globe almost 16 times since making his first trip twelve years ago.
And this week he will break the 400,000 mark as he completes a gruelling eight day schedule in which he will oversee airlifts of over 280 cattle to three European and one African nation, clocking up 19,000 miles in the process.
The airlifts, with stock valued at over €420,000, will bring much needed relief and self-sufficiency to families in Albania, Kosovo and Rwanda and to some 200 children at a Romanian Orphanage.
Speaking after completing half the schedule, Mr Crowley said that witnessing families in some of the world’s most impoverished locations achieve self-sufficiency thanks to the Bóthar deliveries makes every one of the miles worth it.
“When you are there first you will see a hut with a straw roof or maybe a piece of plastic over the straw if they’re lucky. A year later, after delivering the heifer, you will see a galvanise roof and that’s massive progress for them and only because the family has a cow that they are selling milk from.
“A year later the same family may have a bicycle and will be taking their produce to markets, bringing other families’ wares to markets and goods home and making money from that as well.
“Another year later again and you will see a shed for the cow and they will have a methane digester that will be piping the methane gas from the cow’s manure into the house where it will power a stove for cooking. And all this starting from one in-calf Bóthar heifer.”
The Charleville livestock transporter, who sits in the cockpit behind the pilot in each airlift, can count himself fortunate in more ways than one to be making the trips after one almost ended in tragedy.
“We were flying over the Sahara on the way to Rwanda in 2009 and it was so hot that the windscreen in the cockpit cracked. We had to drop 20,000 feet in ten seconds or else the windscreen would have smashed and that would have been fatal for us,” he said.
“Around 12 months before that the same happened with another plane except the windscreen smashed. The pilot was just sucked out of the aircraft. We had to drop the 20,000 feet immediately so that the pressure inside and outside the aircraft was the same. The pilot was amazing and essentially saved our lives. We were around three hours from our destination and had to fly the remainder of the trip at 15,000 feet and it was like a scene out of the movie Platoon as we were flying between the mountains and the scenery was amazing,” he continued.
In the eight years since Thomas began making the trips, he has presided over the airlift of over 3,500 heifers, as well as over 5,000 goats and hundreds of chicks and pigs.