Our Volunteers: Carmel Lawry volunteering in South Africa

Holy Family Care Centre

Playground equipment at Holy Family's creche
Situated at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains in Ofcolaco, Limpopo Province, South Africa, Holy Family Care Centre is responding to the needs of the sick and vulnerable, especially orphaned children with HIV and AIDS. Each person who comes to Holy Family Centre is helped to find peace of mind in beautiful surroundings and is treated with reverence and respect.

Run by the OLSH sisters since 2002, the centre has filled an important role in the local community, both supporting vulnerable children so that they may participate in community life, including receiving education at the local school and proper health care, and contributing to better understanding of health issues.

Several local staff assist the program and it is hoped that with training they will be empowered to take more leadership roles in the coming years.  To this end, a request was placed with Palms Australia for a volunteer nurse to assist for one year.

Carmel Lawry

Palms Australia originally recruited Carmel Lawry in July 2011 to fill the request of Holy Family, sharing her skills in health care programs for one year. After completing her initial placement, Carmel spent 18 months in Australia before returning to Holy Family for a new assignment in April 2014.

Carmel has 20 years experience in health care, with qualifications in Nursing, Administration and Training. In letters of recommendation, she has been described as a “truly dedicated and committed individual who always places others before herself.” She has overseen the workplace training of several colleagues and has ensured her Australian employer, an aged health service, maintained its professional accreditation.

She has twice previously volunteered in South Africa and has a passion for working with orphaned and vulnerable children. Since returning to Holy Family Care Centre, Carmel has worked with the local clinics and hospitals, and also become an asset in the Centre’s outreach work: assisting to re-unite orphaned children with their extended families. In the wider community too, various support groups, such as safety houses, have invited her help in improving their systems and organisation.

Carmel’s placement costs are partially covered, but Palms Australia needs your support to cover the remainder of the costs. Please use the donation link on the right hand side of this web-page to contribute.

Back to reality… Children’s health in South Africa

October 14, 2014

Volunteer Carmel Lawry recently returned to her placement in Holy Family Care Centre, South Africa, after a brief “break” of study, work and exams in Australia to enhance her health qualifications. She provides another update of life for the community -and the young- of Ofcolaco:

I have been back in Ofcolaco for 2 weeks and currently I’m having a weekend off – my first days off so I have a chance to write an email. I’m in Tzaneen which is the nearest major town staying at the convent for 2 nights – I get to go swimming and have my favorite milo milkshake!!!! I also needed to do a bit of food shopping and pick up my truck load of diet coke!
It’s been busy at Holy Family – the baby is one month old today – he is healthy and growing well. I am getting used to looking after him although we take turns – we restrict contact to four people – 2 staff who alternate sleeping overnight with the baby, myself and Sr Emilie, a nurse from Congo. Besides the clinic and general stuff I’ve been doing a bit of admin and when Sally the director is away I’m in charge – OMG! There is always something to do around the place and getting a good night’s sleep is so important.

The kids are good – we currently have one girl with tuberculosis and on 6 months daily treatment – unfortunately it went unnoticed as she is HIV+ with chronic lung problems including a cough. How do you distinguish a chronic cough with a TB cough as one of the first signs of TB is unexplained coughing for 2+ weeks? Anyway the treatment has made such a difference – she is much brighter and participating in a few activities. Again, she is a very shy girl so hard to tell by her lack of participation. The hospital has also recommended that all the kids under 5 and any kids who are HIV+ to have prophylactic TB treatment which will be quite some undertaking in medication administration. We also have a lot of kids with chronic eye problems like a chronic conjunctivitis – it mainly causes a yellowing of the whites of their eyes and general discomfort. The doctors order about 3 lots of eyedrops for treatment so we have to round up a lot of kids to ensure they don’t miss their doses.

The brothers’ house

Two kids have just turned 18 which is the cut off for support from Holy Family (or govt regulations) although we have got permission to keep them unfunded until their departure is finalised (the govt funding is inadequate and they are usually 3 – 6 months behind in payment). The boy has been there since toddler age and is HIV+. His mother died at Holy Family and no other extended family wanted him. He now has the opportunity to live with his brother however his home is one room made roughly by bricks – the place looks like it will fall down and is no way waterproof. There is some funding to have a two room house built for them so as soon as this is done he will go to live with his brother. The photo of the brother’s house is attached.

There is a very low level of education at the local village school. The 200 odd students in the High school including Holy Family Children all failed last semester’s exams. Education is a step to bettering the children’s lives – education may enable employment and reduce poverty. The children cannot see the value, the standard is poor- And people from their villages have never been employed. We keep trying though.

Rebuilding families and hopes in Ofcolaco, South Africa

August 4, 2014

Holy Family Centre in Ofcolaco, Limpopo Privince, South Africa is hosting two Palms Volunteers -Carmel Lawry, an experienced health care professional from Melbourne, and Louisa Cataldo, a passionate  teacher and musician from Sydney. Working on different ‘front lines’ both women are helping to rebuild life and hope in a region devastated by poverty, abuse, civil […]

Click here to read the full article

Meet our 10 newest volunteers

November 29, 2013

We have another wonderful group of volunteers, ready to depart for Timor-Leste, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and South Africa.

Click here to read the full article

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To donate to support Carmel Lawry's placement in Ofcolaco, please use the form below. If you would like to make a general donation to Palms Australia, please use our dedicated donation page.

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Your donation will be placed towards the costs of sending and supporting Carmel Lawry as a volunteer in Ofcolaco. In the event that monies are raised above the amount required, Palms Australia will use them to support the placement of other volunteers. For more information contact Palms Australia.

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South Africa

Population: 51,605,347

Area: 1,219,090 sq. km.

Median Age: 24.7

Literacy: 86.4 %

Languages: IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sepedi, English, Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga, IsiNdebele, Tshivenda, siSwati

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has achieved remarkable political and social transformation, and is one of the few African countries to have peaceful and non-violent political transition in recent times. South Africa has a strong human rights-based constitution and development mandate which explicitly takes into account the United Nations Millennium Development […]

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There is much more to doing good work than "making a difference." There is the principle of first do no harm.
There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them. - Teju Cole