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First four volunteers for Sacred Hearts in Africa

By editor - 26 March, 2013

Four lay people have volunteered to give up their time to travel to South Africa for the first Sacred Heart Volunteer Programme (MSCVP). Last weekend the four volunteers gathered in Cork to prepare for their trip lasting three months.

The four will spend the summer working with the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and the team in the Holy Family Centre in Ofcolaco, South Africa. The Centre is home to around seventy children, ranging from babies to teenagers, who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS and TB.

The appeal for volunteers was issued in January and now the four are preparing to bring a variety of skills which they hope to use to promote education and employment opportunities among the Centre’s children and young people.

“They are realistic in what they can really do and the difference they can make,” Fr Alan Neville (Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC), told CatholicIreland.net. “They are looking for rewarding experiences, challenging but also meaningful.”

The volunteers include Karen Sheehan, a secondary school teacher from Schull, who went to Africa last year and worked in Kenya. Kevin Murphy is an electrician from outside Glasgow. He is hoping to train some of the older teenagers the fundamentals of the building trade to help them become brickies, sparkies or chippies. Joanie Hutchinson comes from an auctioneering background, but has worked teaching English as a foreign language. Finally Liz Higgins from Dingle has been involved in the Voluntary Missionary Movement. The former science teacher has worked in both Tanzania and South Africa and is the group’s coordinator.

Fr Neville is happy with four for the first trip to see how it goes but he would like to expand the programme and possibly link in with secondary school pupils.

“For this year and this project the sisters need people who are more mature and have skills to offer. So we will look at a different project (for school pupils) possibly. But it (volunteering) opens your eyes when you are living in an experience or environment that is so different to your own,” he said. “Other more superficial stuff looses the allure when you see something that is really important.”

He explained that he was a volunteer himself and that changed his life. Before joining MSC he was studying commerce in college and took a year out working in Dublin with Simon and it just changed everything for him. He never went back to commerce and later became a missionary.

Volunteering is just one activity for young people with the MSC this summer. There will be a week-long pilgrimage on the first stage of Camino to Santiago de Compostella, from St. Jean to Logrono, passing through the Pyrenees into the Riojan Province of Northern Spain. Also a group will travel to the World Youth Day at Rio but for those who do cannot make the long journey there is the Brightlights World Youth Day gathering in England which many Irish people and diocesan groups are attending.

by Ann Marie Foley