Volunteer Stories » Spanish Point Missionvale Experienceinfo@missionvaleireland.org
Spanish Point Missionvale Experience
On the 14th of February, we started our journey to Missionvale and I can honestly say it was an experience of a lifetime. It is hard to put into words how eye-opening and inspiring the week was. The experience has given me a new perspective on life. One thing that will stay with me for as long as I live, is the people’s positivity. Amongst all the poverty, every person in Missionvale had a smile on their face. The contrast between wealth and poverty was overwhelming. I often wonder how these people were so happy with what little they had but after a week in Missionvale it was clear that it was their faith that kept them going. Every morning we had the privilege of witnessing the devotions where each member of Missionvale Care Center Staff would thank God for everything in their lives and asked God to help them going forward with the day. It was remarkable how upbeat and positive everybody would be heading out to work for the day. The welcome we got every day was so lovely seeing people smiling and singing. Sister Ethel’s work in Missionvale is inspiring and it really shows the impact one person can make. Even though our week in Missionvale was extremely challenging and overwhelming none of us wanted to leave on the Friday afternoon. It was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever had. I hope that coming home from this experience I can make an impact on people in need in my own local area. Missionvale has made a huge impact on my life and I will always take Father Donagh’s mantra with me from the very first day there ‘What I am, is enough, What I have, is enough’.
When I arrived in Missionvale for the first time, I genuinely had no idea what to expect. You can read all the literature and watch all the videos but until you come face to face with the poverty that exists in this community, it is impossible to fully comprehend the scale of the problems that these people are forced to deal with on a daily basis. On that first morning, as we travelled by bus to the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, I watched the shops and apartment buildings fall away to smaller and more derelict homes. I have to confess to feeling a degree of trepidation. The world of the townships is completely removed from anything anyone in Ireland could ever experience. Luckily, there was no need to feel uneasy. When we pulled up outside the Missionvale Care Center, we were greeted by the locals, cheering, singing and, bizarrely, waving Irish flags. This was the first indication of the incredible warmth and friendliness that we would experience during our time at the care center. Despite the issues in this community, I was struck again and again by the sense of hope, optimism and positivity that seems to pour out of the people of the township. They have so little and yet are so grateful. Every morning, we took part in the daily practice of devotions, where several members of the staff meet to sing, dance and praise God without any inhibitions or reservations. Their positivity is infectious. Returning to Ireland, I was shocked and appalled by the petty complaints, cynicism and lack of enthusiasm, so prevalent in our attitudes and personalities. I genuinely learned a lot from the people of Missionvale and I feel that all of us, in our relatively privileged lives could benefit by following their example and attempting to become more positive, optimistic people.
I was so excited on the 14th of February 2020, not that it was Valentine’s Day but that I was heading off on what has turned out to be the single most rewarding experience of my life so far. I had read a lot about Missionvale and the fantastic work Sr. Ethel and her team do for the thousands of people but no amount of reading prepared me for what I experienced. To say I enjoyed my trip is an understatement. From the very first morning until we said our goodbyes, my heart was filled with joy, laughter and tears. Missionvale is a place where extreme poverty is widespread but behind all this poverty, hunger and sadness, lies a community of people who sing, dance and bring joy to others even though they have little or nothing themselves. The children are full of big smiles, curiosity, friendliness and love.
I got to see so much in such a small amount of time, but more importantly I got to experience first hand what kindness and help can do to improve people’s lives. The workers and volunteers in Missionvale do incredible work and I got to be a part of this work for a short time. To witness what families survive on for day is mind-boggling and it opened my eyes so much and made me realise how very lucky we are.
Without hesitation, my favourite part of my time in Missionvale was playing with the children. There was such happiness coming from every child, big huge smiles and hugs, boy do they like their hugs! I received a letter from a young girl named Ovayo thanking me for being her friend, I will forever treasure this letter and have read it many times since I came home.
I am so grateful that I got this amazing opportunity to travel to South Africa with missionvale. My time there was filled with building friendships and realising how life can be so different from ours. I was introduced to a different culture, a culture so poor but so rich in love. My eyes have been opened so much and I have come home with a suitcase of amazing memories which will stay with me forever. Would I like to go back to Missionvale again? In a heartbeat!
From the second I arrived in missionvale care centre I felt extremely welcome. The people of missionvale have to be some of the nicest people I’ve met. Their positive outlook on life is uplifting, although they are faced with great difficulties each day.
The work the care centre is doing is incredible! The difference it’s making to these people’s lives is unbelievable and I’m so grateful I got to witness this first hand.
This was undoubtedly an experience of a lifetime and I learned so much which I’ll carry with me the rest of my life. I’ve shared my humbling stories to my family and hope to return with them in the future.
Missionvale was the most eye opening experience I have ever had in my life to date. It was both fun and sad but with such a nice bunch of people it made every day enjoyable no matter what had happened in the township. If this opportunity came to me again i would jump on it as quick as lightning. The best part of missionvale was definitely the people in the township. They were just so nice, caring and no matter what they were always happy.