Tycoon issues appeal to help in Haiti building project

A TELECOMS tycoon, who used €1 million of his fortune to found a charity, has appealed to the people of his home county for help building or repairing 3,000 homes in poverty-stricken Haiti.

Entrepreneur Leslie Buckley will be in Cork on Monday night to recruit hundreds of volunteers to work on his charity’s first building project in the western world’s poorest nation later this year.

His Haven Partnership is looking for builders, tradesmen, cooks or medical experts for the week-long build in Quanaminphe, in the north east of the Caribbean country, in October.

The vice-chairman of Digicel and long-time associate of billionaire businessman Denis O’Brien has set an ambitious target of raising €7.5 million to build 1,000 homes and repair or improve 2,000 homes over the next three years.

“It will transform the lives of between 15,000 and 18,000 Haitians,” Mr Buckley said.

“In our first year, we have a target of building 125 new homes and upgrading 250.

“We are about to appoint contractors to start work in the next month or so and the work will be completed when the first volunteer trip takes place later this year.”

Mr Buckley and his wife Carmel officially launched their charity last month with a personal donation of€1 million. It will cover their charity’s administration costs ensuring that all the money raised by volunteers goes directly to the charity.

Each volunteer must raise €4,000 to take part in the week-long build and pay 10% to sign up. But they will face tough and challenging conditions on the ground.

“I am really calling on my fellow Corkmen and women to respond in their droves,” he said.

“There are no five-star hotels out there. We will build a tented village alongside the building site and that’s where volunteers will be staying.”

Haiti is a third the size of Ireland, but has a population of nine million — six million of whom live below the poverty line.

One in 12 Haitians will die before their fifth birthday and almost a quarter of the population is malnourished. Devastating tropical storms regularly sweep across the region.

Two hurricanes, in August and September last year, left 800,000 homeless.

Most of the homes that survive are made of mud bricks with scrap metal or straw roofs. Sanitation and indoor cooking facilities are rare.

Well-travelled and a long-time supporter of Goal, Mr Buckley said it was his repeat business trips to Haiti that prompted him to set up Haven. “I have never seen poverty like I have seen in Haiti.Entire families live in shacks that we would not dream of putting an animal in,” he said.

Haven’s new brick-built homes will be 36 square metres, have two bedrooms, a kitchen and dining area and respect local cultural traditions, such as providing a veranda to accommodate outdoor cooking.

Although modelled on the Niall Mellon Township Trust project, which builds homes in South Africa, Mr Buckley said has gone a step further and established local committees to select people to occupy the new homes once they are built.

He will host an information and recruitment evening for potential volunteers at the Kingsley Hotel in Cork at 7pm on Monday. All are welcome.

* havenpartnership.com or telephone: 01-433 3930.

Buckley: Man with the Midas touch

SERIAL entrepreneur Leslie Buckley, 64, is one of Ireland’s most successful businessmen. With billionaire magnate Denis O’Brien, he helped manage the start-up of Esat Telecom Group plc and Esat Digifone Limited, holding the position of chief operations officer of Esat Telecom in 1996 and 1997.

Using the €289 million proceeds from the sale of the company, they founded an even more valuable mobile franchise in the Caribbean, Digicel, in 2001.

With Buckley as vice-chairman of the board, the company employs 5,500 people, and has just over 6.5 million customers in 26 markets in the Caribbean and Central America, the English speaking West Indies, the French West Indies, the Dutch Caribbean, Bermuda, and South America.

Buckley grew up on Cork’s College Road with his twin brother Ray, and their three brothers. Their father ran a floor-covering business on Washington Street. He attended Glasheen Boys NS and Presentation Brothers Secondary School, and completed a science degree in UCC before graduating with an MSc in 1969.

In 1990, Buckley set up his own management consultancy business and worked on key public and private sector projects, including the reconstruction of Waterford Crystal, the reconstruction and sale of Irish Steel, consulting work with Irish Rail and the restructuring of Aer Lingus.

Buckley serves on the boards of several companies including saongroup, the Irish Medical Organisation Financial Services Limited and Business Recovery Services Limited. He is also a director/chairman and shareholder of companies including Irishjobs.ie, Communicorp Group Limited, Radio 2000 Limited and Globetech Technical Services Limited.

Married to Carmel, they have three children, John D, Jane and Patrick.

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