the deadline was Friday lunch-time. I believe it was 3 minutes before one when we finished. Some were on the plane within 12 hours, some where stayng on a bit longer. I had an extra day – to sleep mainly. So many more needed a lot more than that. It was worth it. Another journey was complete. 253 houses were built. A community was given a centre. I played a very small part. I was proud to have done so. I dont have so many photographs of the complete garden, surprising, possibly. But the official blog was there along and so too was the Niall Mellon Township website.
Will I return next year. Yes. Will I need your help. Yes. If you can help – please call. To those who did help me this year – from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much 🙂 It was appreciated.
I was part of the garden team. A community centre was in place when we arrived. Two schools sat nearby. A primary and a secondary. Horticulturally, the land outside that was to be landscaped was pretty much all sand. Some shacks surrounded the community garden on two sides with a metal fence to seperate. Reality set in. This was to be a mammoth task. But as with all things, planning is everything. The foremen [Gerry, Matty, Dermot and Janet] were in place. Dominic had assembled only the finest to complete his designs. My task – whatever was to be done. Whatever was needed. All of that that was Donegan Landscaping and Ireland to an extent, went right out the window. I wasn’t the boss. I wasn’t Donegan. I was Peter. I was part of a team. Part of a bigger story than I will ever be and I was proud to be there. Who I was didn’t matter. What was achieved did.
Work was done with the local schools. Gardens were built. Once again, more details of this can be read at the official blog. Work was done at a local orphanage. Slides and swings, water features, elephants, grass, plants and trees were put in place.
They say it’s the people that make a place. It made it for me. I met one man at a local school who was asking me how I got to South Africa. He had never been on an aeroplane before. He wanted to know what it was like and if I could see him from the sky. He hoped one day he would be in an aeroplane. I met the beautiful singers of the Baptist Church. I met the school children who did beautiful paintings with the ladies of the garden team.
People worked hard. The heat was crazy. The sand blew in the wind and stuck to our factor 30-40 sun cream. Water bottles emptied almost as quick as they were perspired. It was an inspirational journey.
There are a few reasons why people maybe wondering why I didn’t write live from ths years Niall Mellon Township Trust journey. Firstly, it was impossible, for me and secondly they had a live blog here from every team there which gave a better overall picture. I was of course only one of over 2,000 people. For those who don’t know the story read the Irish township story here. I also had briefly touched on it here.
And so on to my story, my experience. I was of course one only of so very many….
We left a cold Dublin airport on the morning of the 27th November 2008 and travelled onto Heathrow and from there to Cape Town through the night. The staff on the plane had heard of the travelling Irish. I met so many people en route; One man from Sligo who had only once or twice been out of Sligo and this was his first time on a plane. This was inspirational in itself. The excitement was brilliant.
At the airport Niall Mellon and a welcoming team was there. Once again, ‘he’ shook individually the hands of every person who passed through the airport and thanked every one of us.
We arrived into the heat of Cape Town and after a short journey to our hotels – we reconviened at ‘The Arches’. The central meeting point for the 2000 irish people. We were welcomed by some local musicians and traditional dancers from local children and then followed a rousing speech by Niall Mellon and Bishop Desmond Tutu both thanking us all for coming here and praising each and every one of us for the work we would do this week. It was appreciated. It was heart felt. It was emotional.
But we still had not seen the townships. One thing Niall explained was the translation of the word shantee. Coming from ‘sean’ [the old irish/ gaeilge] for old & ‘tí’ [pronounced tee – meaning house]. It was not until we saw the ‘seantí’ towns that we would realise why we were actually there.
The welcoming march was the eye opener. We walked tall. Everyone of us. Together. seperated only by the colour of our t-shirts. We brought the traffic to a stand-still. It was amazing. I imagined people going into work that mornng explaining why they were late and explaining that it was because over 2,000 irish people were walking the streets… 😉
The people cheered us on. People were dancing and singing and thanking us all. I saw their homes, their businesses and their faimilies. They were happy.
We were talking that evening of the days events. One conversation was of what was back home. People say we have a recession back home – recession ?!! I really should be so greatful for what life has given me. This was an eye opener. Maybe one we all need, because life is good. In this context, life has been very good to me. If I am in the midst of a recession in Ireland – well then how fortunate am I ….?
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