With open hearts and minds, nine men from Ireland arrived in South Africa and gained from the experience as much as they gave.

Tiglin, a registered charity that provides residential rehabilitation programmes for men and women in addiction or homelessness in Ireland, reached out to Valcare to do an outreach in South Africa.

According to Tiglin Relations Guide, Jeffrey Gibhou, most recovering addicts have an overwhelming need to give back, get direction and be part of something meaningful that gives them self worth.

“Addiction is horrible but I have been sober for one year and ten months now. I have a purpose in life and I want to be happy and make other people happy. Recovery might be hard but I’ve learnt that addiction is like giving up everything for one thing and recovery is giving up one thing for everything,” said Conor Brown, one of the Tiglin Programme graduates, who at one point lost feeling in his legs and ended up in a wheelchair because of his addiction.

Giving back and forming friendships

The group visited ten of Valcare’s member organisations. Their days were filled with different activities including a township tour, sitting in on youth group sessions, distributing food and shoes, playing sports with children from disadvantaged backgrounds to spending time with ex-offenders.

“Being in South Africa has opened my mind. To see the huge divide between the haves and have-nots changed something in me. As people we tend to take things for granted, but we have a warm bed to sleep in and there are people out there with nothing. I leave here feeling like anything I can do to help, I want to do it,” said Jamie.

According to another Tiglin Consultant Volunteer, Darius Kazakevicius, one of the many differences between Ireland and South Africa is how dependent the people in Ireland are on the government as compared to people in South Africa who come up with innovative ways to make a change in their own lives.

“There are very few opportunities for collaboration in Ireland. I do not think there is a nonprofit company that functions like Valcare where they go beyond just giving funds and resources but collect, monitor and share data to see what works and does not work. Seeing this in action has given me confidence that everything that we did and gave in our time here is going towards actual impact,” said Darius.

“Hearing everyone share about their experience is more than I could have hoped for when the idea of this trip first came to me. To see the growth in the guys and the role this trip has played in their lives will always be cemented in my heart. I am humbled by the experience,” Jeffrey said.

According to Valcare’s CEO, Ivan Swartz, it is through collaboration that we are able to connect with people who care about the challenges we face as a collective.

“Sometimes, we become too familiar with the word collaboration, but it truly is the spark that sets the tone for actual impact. Collaboration allows us to carry our burdens together and therefore achieve more. Long may it continue.” he concluded.