We spoke to Cormac, who went to South Africa as part of the Tiglin’s South African Friendship group to help to more unfortunate in the townships of Cape Town. He shared his experiences and the lessons he has brought back to Ireland.

Cormac sharing some life advice to orphaned children in Wellingtown, Western Cape

Cape of Good Hope 

"I've never been outside of Europe before, I expected to be a bit more overwhelmed. I was expecting maybe people to look at me differently but that did not happen, everyone was so friendly.

Something that really opened my mind is the charities there. They don’t like handouts, they don’t want people dependent on the charities. I was amazed at how great the charities in South Africa are. They want to raise people out of poverty. I was expecting them to be maybe underdeveloped, battling corruption but in fact, they are light years ahead of us. They all work under a different umbrella and share everything they have, assets and knowledge. For example, a charity that works with local prisons shared a bus with a charity that works with single mothers.

Everyone we met, even driving through the poverty-stricken areas, everyone was waving happily to see us there. It was very divided though, we had to drive from the wealthy area to the poor areas, it was like two different worlds. One side where we were staying looked very European, very wealthy, parked Mercedes…. The other side looked African with poverty everywhere you look."

Visiting Mosaic Foster-Family and Orphanage Community in Wellington

"I remember sitting in the hotel one night, sitting on the balcony, having a cup of coffee and I was thinking I am here eating three-course meals and people on the other side are people living in tiny shacks, without running water or electricity. I was so angry. I’m able to have a hot shower and put on a clean pair of socks whenever I want. I don't take that for granted.

There is no government help over there, people who make it out help those who are in the middle of it. Some people who live in wealthy areas are blind to the fact that people are starving on the other side of the house walls. Despite the corruption there, most people want to move on, move on to a better tomorrow which is great to see.

Before I went to South Africa I’ve read books and watched documentaries about it. But it’s the personal connection I lacked to understand it. It’s when you’re there, walking the streets it begins to exist on the map."

Tiglin group visiting Dalubuhle Primary School

Tiglin group visited "Fountain of Hope Youth Centre & Soup kitchen"

What left a lasting impact on me is the amount of work the charities do to help people, without the assistance or funding from the government. I spoke to random people everywhere I could, like the waitress at the hotel where we were staying. She like most people I had the privilege of meeting is involved in the community. It’s part of the culture to be involved in helping others. That is probably the one thing I would like for people in Ireland to learn about South Africa today.

Tiglin Column; 26th of June 2022