Outreach programmes not only improve awareness of social issues or offer a unique point of view on the world, but they also provide opportunities to build relationships that result in joint efforts toward social change.

In June 2022, nine men who are part of Tiglin, a registered charity providing residential rehabilitation programmes for men and women in addiction or homelessness in Ireland, visited Paarl. Nearly a year later, a larger group has landed in South Africa on a mission to give back and build relationships.

According to Jay Bobinac, manager of one of Tiglin’s independent living facilities for young adults, they are delighted to share their Irish-gained skills and to learn from Valcare.

“Outreach work is meeting people where they are, making a personal connection and offering help in whatever form. We believe that, as people and citizens, we have to care and lend a hand to those affected by poverty.”

Raising funds to respond to the need

During their visit last year, the group identified two organisations from the Valcare network and set out to raise funds for improvements on their premises.

To check on the progress of their projects, they made Fountain of Hope and Gratefulness Soup Kitchen one of their first stops when they arrived in Paarl.

Fountain of Hope, a non-profit organisation that uses sport and outreach programmes to improve the social context of vulnerable youth in Paarl, needed a new kitchen for their after-school feeding scheme and Gratefulness Soup Kitchen, a soup kitchen that provides meals for over 250 children each day needed fencing around their soup kitchen container. Both these projects have been completed.

“For the longest time, we had hopes of turning this space into a proper kitchen, but we did not have the means to do so. Now we can prepare meals and continue to feed the people in the community in a well-equipped and safe space. We are grateful for the work done here,” stated Vanessa Adams, founder of Fountain of Hope.

Changed lives and changing lives

There were a few new faces to the Tiglin group this year; one was Anthony Breen, who is still going through a 16-month rehabilitation programme with Tiglin.

Anthony had a traumatic and unstable upbringing, which led to drug abuse and involvement in violent crime that landed him in prison. However, through the Tiglin programme, he’s been clean for over a year and looks forward to new beginnings.

“When the first group of guys returned from South Africa, it was intriguing to see how passionately they spoke about their experiences. I wanted to be a part of that,” said Breen.

“The shame and guilt from my past were hard to let go of, but it was a cycle that needed to be broken. Seeing the support people gave us on this trip and our experiences have made me realise that some things are bigger than me. I am grateful to be part of something bigger than myself,” he added.

Back in South Africa for the second time, Conor Brown, a Tiglin Programme graduate who will be three years sober in August 2023, spoke about his sense of purpose from being part of this outreach.

“Last year changed my heart and made me work for the Lord even more. Being back in South Africa made me realise that the need is great and one needs to be more purpose-driven in their giving,” concluded Brown.

According to the group, the plan for next year is to rally more people to come to South Africa because these visits have changed the lives of many.