20 November 2006
On Friday, 350 volunteers left Ireland for the township of Mfuleni in Cape Town, to join with 30 volunteers from Germany, South Africa and the UK in replacing 50 tin shacks with quality, sustainable housing.
The week-long building blitz is the latest outing of the Niall Mellon Township Initiative (NMTI), an Irish charity that builds brick houses for shack dwellers in South Africa.
Founded by Irish property developer and philanthropist Niall Mellon in 2002, the charity began building houses in its first township, Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, in 2003.
Since then, Mellon’s volunteers have built over 600 quality homes in Imizamo Yethu and a second township, Netreg off Cape Town’s N2, where the organisation started work in April.
Every year the charity organises a building blitz where Irish volunteers are asked to raise €4 000 each and travel to Cape Town for a week-long intensive build.
As the 350 men and women prepare for the 2006 volunteer blitz in Mfuleni, NMTI’s third township, the organisation has already started recruiting what it hopes will be a massive 1 000 volunteers for “the largest ever exodus of Irish people to a charity event overseas” in November 2007.
SA government joins in
The charity’s move into Netreg in April represented a huge up-scaling of its work in South Africa – and was accompanied by a commitment from the Western Cape government to double the number of housing subsidies for the township.
Speaking at the official opening of an NMTI “show house” at Netreg in April, Mellon said: “Soon we will begin a new housing scheme at Mfuleni, where we will build at least 250 quality brick houses.
“Our expansion plans mean that we will spend around R40-million over the next 12 months building homes for the poor across Cape Town.”
The NMTI is also exploring the possibility of expanding into other townships in the near future.
“This charity is getting bigger and more ambitious,” Mellon said. “We want to play our part, alongside the South African government and its people, in wiping shacks off the face of this country forever.”
Builders for Africa
In September – with 150 homes in Netreg already completed – Mellon went a step further, launching Builders for Africa, an ambitious fund-raising scheme which aims to raise €20-million to build a further 4 000 homes in SA.
The new venture calls on property developers and land-owners to donate a site in Ireland to the charity, on tradesmen and women to volunteer their labour to build a house, and on suppliers to donate the materials needed.
The house is then sold off, with the proceeds going directly to the NMTI.
And for every 10 sites donated by others, Mellon will donate a site of his own.
At the time of the launch of the scheme, the first Builders for Africa house, in Roscommon, had already been completed and four other sites had been donated in Dublin, Carlow and Galway.
“With Builders for Africa we are aiming to have 100 sites donated across the country,” Mellon said. “This would enable the charity to build up to 4 000 houses in Africa, providing a proper home for 30 000 people currently living in shacks.”