Teens give up Ireland comforts to help

Francois van Mazijk

VOLUNTEERING, for some, means spending time at a kibbutz in Israel or helping out over Christmas wrapping gifts or filling stockings for charities.

But for a group of do-gooders all the way from Ireland, volunteering means giving up the comforts of home to come and work in one the poorest communities in Port Elizabeth – Missionvale.

The group are renovating the Missionvale Care Centre’s nutritional and wellness facility, tiling, rewiring and sorting out the garden.

One of the volunteers, Tiernan McDermott, 15, said it felt good to be giving something back.

“You cannot compare the reality of what goes on here to what I have seen on the television,” he said.

“We help people here, we teach them how to start their own gardens … The gardens are made up of beetroot, spinach and pumpkins. It’s sad but there is hope.”

Kieran McDermott – who co-founded Missionvale Ireland Limited with Oliver O’Loughlin, Mary Boohan, Cliodhna Talty, John Molloy, Joseph Hodgins, Gerard Byrnes and Willie Walsh in 2008 – said they had heard a new building was needed for a nutrition and wellness unit.

“At the moment we are using a makeshift unit, that feeds about 800 families a day.

“That is about 1.5% of the population of Missionvale,” he said.

“The biggest challenge that we face is food. The people who are dependent on us are mostly HIV-positive and malnourished, so their food intake absolutely must be of a hygienic and quality standard. If it is not they stand a chance of getting very sick.”

Cian Moran, 16, said: “The people here are desperate, but good-hearted. When I arrived here it was 10 times worse than what I imagined it to be.”

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