Liadan Jaquiery enjoying interacting with people at Missionvale Care Centre. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Visiting Cape Town’s Table Mountain, helping a poverty-stricken region, and getting a close-up view of the ‘big five’ game animals are things most of us can only dream of experiencing.
But for 35 students from the Rathkeale St Matthew’s Senior College, they have just returned from a trip to South Africa where they were able to experience all of that and more.
The tour party spent 18 days experiencing some of the once-in-a-lifetime things only South Africa can provide, but their underlying mission was of significant importance.
They were there to visit Missionvale Care Centre in Port Elizabeth, and were hoping to raise over $10,000 for the organisation.
The majority of the money was raised before they left through a quiz night, bake sales, sausage sizzles and other fundraisers.
More events were planned to continue to raise money for the centre.
The care centre was founded by Sister Ethel Normoyle, who has received many accolades for her work.
She was visited by Mother Theresa, Queen Elizabeth and many other famous people, highlighting the impact the centre has had on the region.
While at the care centre, the students helped to provide services and feed the locals.
Year 13 student Grace Connery said seeing the different culture was an “eye-opening experience”.
“It was crazy going from the poverty in Missionvale, and then going to Cape Town and seeing all the flash buildings so close by.
“You go from shacks made of cardboard and then to fancy, luxury hotels.”
Seeing the game in the area was also a highlight, although she said it was sad to see what poachers were doing to some of the animals.
Josh Tatham (Year 13) said visiting Table Mountain was one of the experiences that stood out for him.
“To actually get up there and see the views was breathtaking.”
Getting to interact with the people at Missionvale was something he would never forget, he said.
“I found it surprising how energetic everyone was — they just loved seeing us there.”
Year 12 student Oliver Donaldson said seeing the amount of poverty was “intense”, and made the group realise how privileged they are to live in New Zealand.
Tour leader and head of geography at Rathkeale, Cliff Bouton, said the senior college had built up a strong relationship with the care centre.
“We’ve had quite an association with [Missionvale] . . . we had a day of service there, where the kids broke up into different groups and worked on different things.
“This year we also decided we would feed everybody there, so we had about 2000-odd hotdogs which we supplied.”
Missionvale was a “beacon of hope for a lot of people”, and Mr Bouton said he was sure the experiences would have had quite an impact on his travelling group.