Charity work lays foundation for an annual family reunion
EMIGRANT Aoife Murphy has travelled 7,200 miles to meet with her proud father Pat, a retired garda.
Father and daughter have been reunited and are building new schools for orphans in a remote part of South Africa as part of the Niall Mellon Educate organisation.
Engineer Aoife (28) and Pat, who retired after a 30-year career last June, hail from Borris, Co Carlow.
Aoife emigrated to Christchurch in New Zealand three-and-a-half years ago. Her younger brother Eoghan (25) moved to London four years ago – their mother Mary remains at home.
This is Aoife's seventh blitz with the charity – she has managed to do three of those since she emigrated.
"Every year since I moved, I travel from New Zealand to South Africa and my dad travels from Ireland to South Africa and we get to meet up while on the building blitz and it's fantastic.
"My mam came down to see me two years ago so we've had a family reunion every year."
Meanwhile, it's been revealed how a 20-minute conversation between RTE broadcaster Marian Finucane and charity boss Niall Mellon at Heathrow Airport has changed the lives of hundreds of orphans in South Africa.
Marian and her partner John Clarke – who run the charity 'Friends in Ireland' – met developer and philanthropist Mr Mellon as they happened to cross paths in the airport last November.
Four months later, more than 100 Irish volunteers with the Mellon Educate organisation are working on three sites in a rural area in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, in a seven-day building spree.
A second blitz is happening in Cape Town where another 220 volunteers are working on the construction and refurbishment of a school near the township of Imazamo Yethu.
Speaking about the project for the RTE star's charity, Mr Mellon said: "Now that I've entered the education space, for the first time, we have mutual shared objective in providing improvements in education . . . I made a commitment to them that Mellon Educate would help."
The Mount Zion drop-in centre in Biazana is the biggest of the three and is operated by Finucane's charity. This week, volunteers from all over Ireland are constructing a brand new centre which will help feed and educate some 120 orphans.
In Kokstad, volunteers are working on a new building for St Theresa's pre-school for some 40 children. And in Franklin, a school and drop-in centre is being refurbished.
However, tragedy struck in Biazana last Thursday when a group of nine construction workers employed by a sub-contractor were killed in a road accident.
More than 20 children have been left without a father as a result of the tragedy and, last night, volunteers held a moment's silence in their memory.
The charity says it will be working with the children in the future and hopes to address any long-term needs.