Five young people from Laois will take part in volunteer projects with SERVE this summer. Paula Quigley and Pierce Bennett (both Timahoe) will volunteer in South Africa with Tapologo and Tsholofelo, Tony Loughnane (also Timahoe) and Niamh McDermott (Mountmellick) will travel to Mozambique to volunteer with Young Africa and Sarah Delaney (Rathineska) will volunteer with Morning Star in India. In South Africa, near Rustenburg, Paula and Pierce will be assisting on the building and renovation of health and training centres, with Paula taking on the role of Group Leader. Tens of thousands of people live in shacks in squatter camps such as Freedom Park, and SERVE’s partners Tapologo and Tsholofelo provide services including home-based care and vocational skills training. This will be Paula’s second trip abroad with SERVE, having previously volunteered with them in 2009. “I’ve been involved with SERVE on and off since 2009, when I volunteered in the Philippines with them. I’ve been doing some fundraising and then an opportunity came up to work with them for a year, and I jumped at it.” Paula became involved with Serve having attended an information session in college in Cork. “They were recruiting in CIT (Cork Institute of Technology), where I was studying. I seen it advertised and decided to go to the information session and it all went from there.” Paula, Pierce and Tony, go back along way, having all grown up together in Timahoe. While Pierce become involved through Paula, he is looking forward to the experience and helping those in need. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I had to drop out of a trip to Zambia when I was in 5th year in the CBS in Portlaoise because of my studies. I wasn’t going to miss out when the opportunity came again.” Pierce continues: “What you see on television is not really real, I wanted to go and see it and experience it for myself. Even if I help one person, it will be worthwhile.” The Heath Golf Club barman said that his family were naturally a bit worried when he first said he was going. “They were a little bit worried and they had lots of questions about what I would be doing and my safety and vaccines, but they trust me to look after myself too,” he said. In Beira, Mozambique, Tony and Niamh will be working on the construction of Young Africa’s new agricultural skills training centre, which will train people from the local area in agricultural working practices and techniques. The volunteers will also be taking part in arts, sports and youth leadership workshops. Young Africa’s aim is to provide young people with the technical, business and life skills to support themselves, their families and their communities. Tony decided to volunteer after hearing what a life changing experience it was from other people who had experience of it. “Everybody I have discussed this with who has experience of volunteering says it is a life changing experience.” He continues: “What impressed me and gained my interest is the fact that SERVE realises that throwing money at people in these severely disadvantaged areas will not solve their problems. By investing in infrastructure, education, and working in partnership with people to empower themselves real and sustainable.” Ratheniska’s Sarah, who recently graduated with a degree in Social Care, will volunteer with Morning Star in Bangalore, India. The Morning Star Learning Centre project provides care and education for orphaned and abandoned children. Many of the young people there have learning and physical disabilities, and the centre also encompasses a residential home. Similar to Paula, Sarah signed up after attending an information day while in college in Waterford IT. “When they came to the college I just decided to do it. I finished college last year and I’m just working part time, so now is a good time to go while I have the time.” With her background in social care, Sarah will be working with children in an orphanage with disabilities.
“I’m do some subbing work in the Kolbe School in Portlaoise, but I know it’s going to be worlds apart from that. The experience is the main thing I’m going to take away from this. I want to work with people with disabilities, it will be interesting to compare my experiences to home. “I will never get this chance again, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I never thought I would get the chance.” Sarah’s family were also worried about her travelling abroad, but she says they have been reassured. “I don’t think they believed me at first, not until I went to the training day, They are a bit apprehensive about my safety, but they have been re-assured now and have been a massive support to me. Each volunteer has to raise €1,600 to cover the cost of the trip and her team of 10 people that are travelling to India had to raise €20,000. All the volunteers have been holding a variety of different events across the county to help raise this money. Sarah was full of praise for SERVE, who she said had prepared the volunteers well. “SERVE have been a great support, they talk you through everything and they don’t sugarcoat anything. We have had someone who was in India before talk to us about what it was like. “They are always in contact with you and we have three training days before we head away. You feel so prepared after the training day that you just want to go straight away, July seems so far away.”