How one accountancy firm is using its expertise for a charitable cause
How one accountancy firm is using its expertise for a charitable cause
"I was brought up the road, 20 kilometres, to a small school that basically was a tin shed with one teacher and 30 children. It had no electricity, no running water, no toilets, and it was on a small site. At that stage, the blackboard was hanging off the wall. All the chairs and tables were broken. It was an agricultural area, it was deprived, and they didn’t have an awful lot really."
Were you to come across the website of John McCarrick & Associates when searching for an accountancy firm, you would not initially see anything out of the ordinary. Dig a little deeper, however, and you will find a recurring theme: Kenya.
During a trip to the country with his son in 2013, John McCarrick, founder of the Dublin based firm, realised he could utilise his accounting background, and the collective agency of his firm, for an entirely different cause.
Since 2014, John has visited Kenya around three times a year, staying for eight to 10 days each time to work on charitable projects he runs through a registered charity that he founded and chairs—the Kenyan Child foundation. The firm’s latest project, to build Saint Patrick’s Primary School in Machakos County, located 150km south of Nairobi, is nearing its completion and has made a significant impact on the lives of the local children.
“One was to turn my back and walk away or the other was the help out. So I decided I would give them a hand.”
When he was there in 2014 working on a project to build a secondary school, John was approached and asked whether he could help on another project. “When I was down there at that time, I was asked, ‘would I have a look at something else?’ Another small school up the road that I might be able to help with,” he recalls. “So I was brought up the road, 20 kilometres, to a small school that basically was a tin shed with one teacher and 30 children.
“It had no electricity, no running water, no toilets, and it was on a small site. At that stage, the blackboard was hanging off the wall. All the chairs and tables were broken. It was an agricultural area, it was deprived, and they didn’t have an awful lot really.”
Making a difference in Kenya
John is managing partner and registered auditor at John McCarrick & Associates and has over 35 years’ experience in the industry. His firm serves over 500 clients nationwide. He has served as the president of the Institute of Incorporated Public Accountants in Ireland (IIPA), and was re-elected to this position 2015, finishing his three-year term in October 2018. He is now serving as IIPA Board Member with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPA Ireland) following the permanent collaboration that he led between both recognised accountancy bodies (CPA & IIPA Ireland).
In addition, he was appointed to the office of Peace Commissioner in 2014 by the Minister for Justice. He is also the holder of numerous Irish and Scottish athletic titles.
Despite all his achievements, the most striking thing when talking to John about his work in Kenya, other than his thick Irish accent, is his modesty: “I had two options at that stage,” he says, discussing when he was asked for help. “One was to turn my back and walk away or the other was the help out. So I decided I would give them a hand.”
‘Giving them a hand’ is somewhat of an understatement. In order to get the necessary structures in place, John and his team set up the registered charity in 2014. This provided them with the vehicle with which to move forward, raise funds and carry out charitable activities in Kenya.
In 2015, they opened three new classrooms. In 2016, another three and in 2018 they opened a further five. Currently, they are in the process of finishing a kitchen and dining area and paving the yard and assembly area.
While the Kenyan Child Foundation had help from both the Irish and Kenyan embassies, John and his firm’s accounting experience allowed them to navigate complex administrative and regulatory requirements that others without the same background would likely struggle with, and therefore accelerating the project.
“With me coming from the accountancy world, it was probably easier for me to do that than it might be for other people.”
“We got the school accredited after about 18 months with the Kenyan department of education – that meant the salaries of the teachers are being paid by the Kenyan government rather than by the charity. Otherwise all the funding that would be raised would be going to pay salaries rather than doing building work or building a school. We got that over the line in about 18 months – normally that takes about five years.
“In 2017, we received generous support from a donor in the UK, who provided funding to assist in concluding the project,” John says. “So, we went about building the school. But It’s very easy to do that when you have all your credentials and your charity regulatory number in order, and you comply with all the requirements and the various standards.
“With me coming from the accountancy world, it was probably easier for me to do that than it might be for other people. Our firm and the staff in our firm were given the time to get that all in order.”
A good learning environment
Employees of John McCarrick & Associates are also very involved with the charity efforts in Kenya, with staff also going out to the school. They might spend two afternoons a week in the firm’s Dublin office, and then go out to Kenya for longer periods of time.
“In July a certain amount of staff from the office here went and were involved in teaching,” John says. “At the moment we have some small business entrepreneurial projects going on down there as well. They’re all quite basic but it’s giving people an idea how to run a business in Kenya.”
Now, in 2019 as the project nears completion, the school educates 360 children, and the charity has worked hard to ensure that the pupils are taught in an environment where they have everything they need to learn.
A breakfast of maize, porridge and fruit and a lunch of rice and beans is provided each day. Teachers all come from the Kenyan department of education, and therefore have all the proper qualifications.
“We’ve created a little bit of a brand for ourselves and a name for ourselves in Kenya.”
There has also been an emphasis on gender equality, ensuring that girls who have to travel far each day have access to bicycles to make their journey easier. John explains: “Girls are provided with bicycles to cycle to school because a problem in Kenya in a rural area, is that they often might have to walk 15 or 20 kilometres to school, and therefore they just don’t go to school. Simple as that.
“We twinned up with the World Bicycle Relief, who provide very sturdy bicycles, that you would pay about $110 for each, and we got people to fund those and support those.”
Thanks to the efforts of John and his firm, these 360 disadvantaged children have access to a first-class education. Ranging from 4 to 13 years old, they attend primary school for longer than children in the UK, but for many, this could be as far as their education goes.
Therefore, John does not want to stop here. The charity has been invited to support another project in Kenya when Saint Patrick’s Primary School is completed, which would see the Kenyan Child Foundation build another school, this time for children with disabilities in place called Mukuru, which is a slum in the East of Nairobi.
“The particular people we are working with now that have invited us to help them run three schools down there and have about 6,000 children attending their schools. So we’ve created a little bit of a brand for ourselves and a name for ourselves in Kenya,” John says.
“It has been a very successful project for the people in Kenya, and it has been a successful project for the charity we’ve set up here, and obviously for our firm as well.”