Two Ennis girls are hoping to do their bit to help the South African community of Port Elizabeth when they head off to Sr Ethel Normoyle at the Missionvale township at the end of this month.
Ellen Daly and Sarah Behan, both aged 20, are embarking on a journey that they hope will both challenge and help them in the future.
Missionvale is a township of an estimated 100,000 people, which has been ravaged by disease, unemployment and malnutrition. The HIV/Aids virus is affecting 70% of its population, including children, and almost 75% of the adult population there are unemployed.
But amid the apparent hopelessness, Lissycasey native Sr Ethel and her team of care workers bring a glimmer of hope and comfort to the inhabitants of the shantytown.
Ellen and Sarah will help out with the management side of the project, supporting the work of Sr Ethel in whatever way they can and helping with the administration of a number of projects set up there.
Ellen, from Gallows Hill, has just graduated from University College Cork, where she studied social science and is hoping to go on to do a masters in social work. She is confident that this experience will help her develop the skills necessary for that kind of career.
Sarah, who is from Beechpark, wants to pursue a teaching career and is hoping she may help at the school in Missionvale.
The two students have decided to take a year out of their education and test themselves in a unique and rewarding way.
Ellen explained that she heard about Missionvale through her mother, who had gone over to help on a building project and the more she heard about the work going on the more she wanted to help herself.
She admits that she’s not really interested in business but rather in helping and communicating with people.
The two will stay in South Africa until Christmas and they may go back again after the holidays but in order to help fund themselves in South Africa Ellen and Sarah have organised a fundraiser at the Éire Óg clubhouse next Friday.
The event has a 1980s theme and those attending are encouraged to dress up and get into the ’80s vibe. There will be music and a raffle on the night with doors opening at 9pm and tickets will be available on the night.
A lot of the work done by Clare volunteers to date has been building work and this will be the first time that volunteers have gone over to help with the day-to-day running of the operation.
While some of the project work expected of Ellen and Sarah will be physical, they will also be involved in offering support with the running and management side of things.
The Missionvale Care Centre, where the two will be based, provides essential health, social and spiritual service to the people in the community as well as providing primary and pre-primary school education and other forms of educational development. It concentrates on the development of children, especially those orphaned and vulnerable. It is primarily involved in treating, alleviating and preventing the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
For more information visit www.missionvale.co.za or www.missionvale.org.