Legendary racing figure Barney Curley who reveals his charity work helping kids in Africa

I am probably best known in the racing world for some of the big gambles that I have landed over the decades.

Yes, it’s satisfying when a long-term plan comes to fruition but the achievement in my life that has given me the most satisfaction is my charity: Direct Aid for Africa (DAFA).

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The charity was set up in 1996, a year after my son, Charlie, was killed in a car crash, aged just 18. When that happened, I had a talk with myself and decided I had not always been a very nice human being.

Until then, it was all about me, myself and I, and I had hurt a lot of people. I decided to change, including going to certain people and apologising to them for things that I had said and things that I had done. Until that watershed, I had no peace of mind.

After my son’s death, I asked the “man above” for a bit of help and the assistance he gave me was unbelievable. I decided to set up a charity that would do something special and worthwhile in my son’s memory.

The sole purpose of the charity is to support underprivileged people in Zambia. We are a non-political, non-sectarian organisation. It’s different from other charities in that nothing “comes off the top” for administration: every penny of every donation goes straight to Zambia.

At 80 years old, I have done some interesting things in my life, including working in a plastics factory, training as a Jesuit priest and managing a pop band.

But now, in my twilight years, I really do feel as if I am living the dream. DAFA has been in operation for nearly 25 years and I hope that it will be around for another 25 years, long after I have met my maker.

I want to help thousands of Zambians to live their dreams. They may be poor but they are also human beings with all the same thoughts and dreams that we have.

I have been very fortunate that so many friends and contacts from racing have made extremely generous donations to DAFA: HRH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, J.P. McManus and many others.

We have many projects including a 125-bed hospital, St Dominic’s Missionary Hospital, which provides medical aid to the sick and hospice care for the terminally ill.

And we have a school, Yengwe Primary School, which has 24 large classrooms and caters for 1,500 pupils. It’s uplifting for me to go to Zambia and see that we really are making a difference to so many people.

My days as a gambler are over: I have moved on. On our last day on this earth, we will all be judged by: what did you do for your fellow human beings?

A wise man once said: “It is in the giving, we receive”. I believe he was 100 per cent correct. I have never been happier, and running DAFA is the best thing by far that I have done in my life.

Barney Curley is a former trainer, owner and gambler. For more information on his charity and to make a donation, visit www.dafa.ie 

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