News Irish News

Saturday 18 November 2017

Rainfall and cups of tea – it's just like home for Mellon volunteers in Africa

Some of the 320 Irish volunteers working on the 'Mellon Educate' building blitz.
Some of the 320 Irish volunteers working on the 'Mellon Educate' building blitz.
Jane Last

Jane Last

RAINDROPS keep fallin' on their heads . . .

When you're 6,000 miles away from home, you will crave home comforts.

And when it's raining from the heavens, you'll crave a cuppa that little bit more.

So it should come as no surprise that the 220 Mellon Educate volunteers working on a new school near the township of Imizamo Yethu sank some 8,000 cups of tea in just four days.

Staff with Niall Mellon Township Trust say they are working to keep up with the unprecedented demand – it normally takes a week to drink that much tea.

Volunteers also drank some 20,000 bottles of water and eaten 1,000 sandwiches.

There has been heavy rainfall in Cape Town for two days, and volunteers are shrouded in plastic ponchos as they work on site. But they're Irish, after all, and well used to the rain.

And yesterday, volunteers from the Mellon Educate building blitz at the Oranjekloof primary school were pressed into service elsewhere as they helped clear away debris after a fire broke out in the township.

Some 25 shacks caught fire, and one person died in the incident on Monday night.

Hairdresser Karen McArdle (42), from Dundalk, has raised close to €100,000 over the past 10 years for the charity.


Karen, who owns Chaplin's Hair Salon in the Co Louth town, has done a blitz every year for the last 11 years.

"The people of Dundalk have been so generous," said Karen who managed to raise this amount through various activities such as sales and function nights.

"I came out 11 years ago for a Wella hair convention and I stayed on for a couple of days afterwards.

"We were visiting an area when our tour guide happened to mention Niall Mellon and that he was building houses in the township, which was unheard of before."

After she arrived home, she signed up for her first blitz and hasn't looked back.

"I went from mixing hair colour to mixing cement and it was no problem," she laughed.

Aaron Hickey (17), from Mungret in Co Limerick, and Austin McMahon (16), from Feakle, east Clare, are the youngest in this year's building blitz.

Aaron is a transition year student in St Clement's College in Limerick – and this is his work placement.

Thanks to bag packs and table quizzes, the teen reached his fundraising target of €3,500 and is now busy working with his two aunts Veronica and Pauline Behan. Austin has been fund-raising for a year with his father Harry, who is here on his sixth blitz.

Austin is not afraid of hard work.

"I'm loving the labouring, to be honest – I can't wait to get out and work every day," he said.

"I'm just trying to keep up with the lads – I'm working with a couple of east Clare lads so they're kind of minding me," added Austin.

Despite their tender years, both teens are toiling just as hard as their older counterparts. However, they have fallen victim to pranks.

Aaron had a ponytail when he arrived in Cape Town last weekend – it has since been reduced to a mere tuft of hair at the side of his neck after his team-mates snipped it off.

"My advice to anyone coming out here next year is not to have an unusual hair cut," he laughed.

The sun is set to make a welcome return tomorrow – but no doubt a few more thousand cups of tea will be consumed over the next two days when the project is scheduled for completion.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News