Missionvale Reflection 2019 – Devlin Staunton
In March 2018, myself and four other students, were chosen through an interview process to go to the Missionvale Care Centre in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In September we began our fundraising, receiving many amazing donations through bake sales, quiz nights, a GoFundMe page, bag packing and even kind anonymous donations. We fundraised throughout the year until February, when we began the long journey to Port Elizabeth.
On arrival it was hard to believe we would be going somewhere where families lived in shacks, or tiny compact houses with little to no food or water, sick and dying. We were staying in the built up part of Port Elizabeth, brimming with restaurants and shops along a beautiful beach, a perfect tourist hub. The first day we went to the Care Centre, as we drove through all this I began to think the centre was going to be a few hours’ drive away, but as we continued the drive I realised I was very wrong. Not even ten minutes down the road I began to see the change. 30 minutes later we were driving through the Township where shacks, broken down houses and sheds, and rubbish spread as far as the eye could see.
It was a shocking sight, but not near as surprising as the welcome we got when getting off the bus at the Care Centre. The workers in the Care Centre and any locals around were thrilled to see us including Sr. Ethel. As we got a tour around the centre and met the different people, their happiness and positivity was incredible. They would sing and dance and make jokes and this positivity shone bright throughout the whole week.
During the week we were tasked with many different things. We would be working in groups in the different sectors of the Care Centre. Whether it was gardening or giving out food, organising clothes or helping to teach the children, every section I worked in is so memorable. I will never forget certain things, like when I was in the Nutrition Centre giving out food and parcels with soap and just seeing the food supply start to get lower and lower. There was a risk that the food would run out but no-one ever lost positivity or was angry or rude. Of course the workers did everything in their power to make sure everyone got something to eat and it was wonderful to see. Another thing I did that will forever stay with me, was when we went out into the Township. It was so heartbreaking to see all the run down homes and rubbish everywhere. Adults and children were wandering around in their bare feet and tattered clothes among dogs, goats and cattle. Families of 10, 11, and 12 are living in tiny compounds the size of a small room. The sick have given up and don’t want to take the medicine although it will help them get better. But again, happiness prevails. They welcomed us into their homes with open arms and smiling faces. We travelled throughout the community with a band of incredible women who not only cared for the people of Missionvale medically but also connected with them on a personal level. They would not only visit them for a quick check up but they would talk to them and make sure they were doing ok. They were truly amazing women.
The main thing I will 100% never forget is the children. Every morning as they were going to school, if they saw us they would run over and jump into our arms. They had so much energy and were so happy to see us and more importantly were so happy to go to school. It was so heartwarming to see them learning with such enthusiasm although it was early and a lot of them travelled far to get to the Care Centre’s school. We helped them learn and would play with them on their areas and after school teaching them not only with books but with sports also. They were so eager to learn about everything including us as people.
When we left Missionvale it was so upsetting. The workers thanked us for our help and we thanked them for helping us learn about the completely different world they live in. We said goodbye to the children who seemed heartbroken and of course to Sr. Ethel who is and will forever be a truly inspirational, remarkable woman. She is so strong in so many different ways and is, in my opinion as well as many others, a walking saint. It was an unbelievable, unforgettable trip, a life changing journey, and I will never forget it.