21 October 2005

Tutu flies in to 'township challenge' in Dublin


21/10/2005 - 17:40:51

Nobel Prize-winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu made a flying visit to Dublin today to back an housebuilding scheme which aims to transform lives in a township in South Africa.

The third Niall Mellon Township Challenge will see 700 Irish volunteers heading out to Cape Town from next week to build at least 100 brick houses for shack dwellers in Imizamo Yethu.

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Archbishop Tutu said the generosity of the Irish people involved in the charity who have each raised €4,000 to take part in the two-week project left him breathless.

“This is a fantastic initiative which will make a real difference to the lives of thousands of ordinary South Africans in Cape Town,” he said.

“I am so proud of the Irish volunteers who are giving their time and money to help my people.”

Property developer Niall Mellon, who founded the project, thanked Archbishop Tutu for his continuing support of the township challenge.

“The speech which Archbishop Tutu made at our gala dinner last year to mark the end of the township challenge was extremely moving,” he said.

“It played a major role in motivating many of our volunteers into signing up again for this year’s challenge.

“In the last 10 years, more than one-and-a-half million homes have been built by the South African government.

“I see the Township Challenge as lending a hand in admiration of the great effort and struggle that South Africa faces in housing almost 10 million shack dwellers.

“I am confident they will do it,” Mr Mellon added.

The first township challenge in 2003 saw 150 builders travel to Imizamo Yethu to build 25 houses.

In 2004, 350 volunteers built 50 homes, and the response this year was so large the trip had to be staggered over two weeks.

While most of the volunteers have a background in the building industry, around 20% of them has never laid a brick before.

The first group of 200 builders leaves Dublin on Friday, October 28 followed by a second team of 450 leaving on November 4, with around 50 who will be working for the entire fortnight.

They have set themselves the daunting task of constructing between 100 and 120 homes over the two weeks, but Mr Mellon said he was confident they could pull it off.

“Our volunteers will be working flat out for the two weeks that they are in Cape Town,” he said.

“It won’t be a holiday for them, but if they achieve their target they will have changed the lives of 1,000 residents of the township for the better forever.”

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