By Niamh Magee
“Twenty-one Eager Beavers from the Archdiocese of Armagh touched down in Johannesburg Airport ready and raring to build on the 29th of July 2008 and I’m delighted to say that I was one of the twenty one. After months of planning and meetings in Armagh and Dundalk, we had finally arrived in Africa. We made the three hour journey to Sefhare, which is situated in Eastern Botswana and this is where we spent the next three weeks.
Our daily routine consisted of rising early and setting off out in our groups to the different building sites and returning ravenous for lunch. When the bellies were filled (with goat!!) we then returned back to the site for the evening’s work alongside our African builders, who taught us alot in the short space of time.
Our routine also included nightly candlelit prayer meetings where we were divided into five groups and each group chose a symbol of how God was present for them that day. Each night the group explained to everyone else why they choose the symbol and how it made them feel. The prayer meetings were a chance for us to slow down from the hustle and bustle and to think about God and to deepen our faith in Africa.
We played three football matches in total against the local ladies and men’s teams, and whilst we didn’t quite manage to grasp victory on any of our three chances, I think everybody bonded and we came together as a team, as players and supporters.
One of our more exciting afternoons was spent at the local secondary school in Sefhare where we were priviliged to be the audience as the students performed their traditional tribal song and dance. I found the experience to be incredible and I was in awe as I watched on. In the end though several of our more confident ‘dancers’ embraced the stage and took to showing off their moves, which undoubtedly were not as skilled or polished as the students’. But they had a laugh at our expense so it was all in good faith.
In Sefhare we celebrated two birthdays and four members of our team found out their A Level results so there was never peace and quiet for too long and thats just the way we liked it!
Whilst we were in Africa we visited three of the local Churches. This was an interesting and enlightening experience for all involved. As the girls donned their hairpieces and long skirts and long sleeved tops we went to Church on the side of a mountain, known as the ‘Z.C.C.’ Church. We were all greeted with a cupful of water in the face. Other Churches we visited involved lively song and dance and we joined in the African hymn singing where possible though clapping along seemed to be the more simple option for us. We also visited a Catholic Church and this is where we met the Austrailian Nun, Sr. Frances who was living in Botswana for over 20 years. At this Church we offered up our thanks to God in the prayer of the faithful as did the locals. We also sang ‘Cead mile failte romhat’ as the opening hymn.
As we departed from the village Sefhare we had handed our finished house over to the new and grateful owners and we donated our mattresses to Sr Frances, we set off for our time of rest and relaxation which, luckily for us was to be on a Safari. Here we encountered many animals such as crocodiles, impala, wildebeest, baboons, buffalos but the entire group would be in agreement that the scariest experience of the trip was running into a herd of African Eleplants. An enthralling yet exciting experience!! We loved it.
As we departed from Johannesburg International Airport, there was a feeling of gloom among the group, you can imagine our happiness when we arriived in a wet and windy Belfast Airport.
An experience never to be forgotten. It was mental!”