SECONDARY school students and their teachers have embarked from Shannon Airport for a for a week-long volunteering effort with the Missionvale Ireland Charity.

A group of twenty-five persons made up of secondary school students and their teachers, will be representing St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Spanish Point; St Flannan’s College, Ennis; Scariff Community College; St John Bosco Community College, Kildysart; Coláiste Éinde Salthill and Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin, An Cheathrú Rua.

They will spend a week in the township of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, assisting with the upkeep and development of the Missionvale Care Centre, as well as providing support for the various youth projects and medical services in operation at the centre. The township is home to roughly 25,000 people and the Missionvale Care Centre provides vital supports to the community who live in seriously impoverished conditions, without running water or electricity.

This student volunteering project has been running for the past ten years, led by Missionvale Ireland Volunteer Coordinator, Joanne Allen and Mullagh based priest, Fr Donagh O’Meara. The charity itself also has a strong association with the county, with its founder, the late Sr Ethel Normoyle, being a native of Lissycasey.

Sr Normoyle set up the charity in 1988, which originally comprised a school and basic medical clinic. It has evolved into a fully integrated community centre, providing life-saving medical treatments in the fight against poverty, HIV and AIDS in the Port Elizabeth Township. The centre also provides education, clothing and food to the local community.

It is the first time a Clare volunteer group has returned to Port Elizabeth since the passing of Sr Normoyle in 2021: “Sr Ethel was such a powerful woman. One of her claims to fame was that she got a mention in the Queens Speech at Christmas for her work. We are really honouring her memory with this trip and hopefully doing her proud,” Joanne said.

Fr O’Meara noted that Missionvale has become “a sanctuary, in the middle of the township” for the local community and trips like these provide an important opportunity to raise awareness and vital funds for the charity, which receives no state aid and is wholly dependent on the support of volunteers and patrons.

Shannon Airport was the first stop in their journey, which saw them transit to Port Elizabeth via London Heathrow and Johannesburg. Joanne acknowledged how important Shannon Airport has been to the continued success of these trips by providing air connectivity for their volunteers to make the journey to South Africa “Shannon Airport has been amazing over the years. We’re blessed with the people that support us and want to give us the best ‘lift off’ on our journey. It’s fantastic being able to go out of Shannon Airport.”

Niall Kearns, Airport Director stated, “Every day we meet people from all walks of life at Shannon Airport, but it is particularly special when we encounter groups like this, utilising the airport as a gateway for doing good. The Missionvale Charity, with its strong local origins, is an incredible organisation and it is wonderful to see local communities honouring the legacy of the late Sr Ethel Normoyle by continuing these annual volunteer trips to South Africa. On behalf of all the team at Shannon Airport, I would like to wish them the very best of luck”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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