Our Volunteers: Louisa Cataldo volunteering in South Africa

Holy Family Care Centre, Ofcolaco, South Africa

Holy Family Care Centre star jumpsSituated 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 greater leadership roles in the coming years. To this end, a request was placed with Palms Australia for a volunteer teacher to assist develop skills of staff in Holy Family’s creche and education program.

 Louisa Cataldo

Louisa has been invited to build upon the initial training provided by Fran Hewitt and Thuy (Cecilia) Nguyen at the Centre and to further develop the educational opportunities for the children of HFCC. She brings considerable knowledge and experience to this role, having taught across primary and secondary schools for a number of years. In addition to her teaching skills, Louisa has a passion for Music. Louisa has been described “as a natural leader who has a passion for teaching and learning”.

If you would like to help Palms support Louisa’s placement in South Africa please make a contribution by clicking on Donate above. Your donation will assist us to send and support Louisa over the duration of her placement.

Farewell from Africa

January 19, 2015

Now about to complete her placement, our prolific Palms Poster Louisa Cataldo gives her final installment, reflecting on her life at Holy Family Care Centre, Ofcolaco South Africa-


Dear Friends

This is the fourth time I have tried to begin this final letter. Where do I begin? How about Christmas? It was beautiful, we celebrated Midnight Mass at 7.30pm with the children followed by a glass of wine (maybe 2), ham sandwiches and my chocolate dipped shortbread biscuits. On Christmas Morning the Nativity play that we had been rehearsing for the entire week came together with a real baby Jesus and singing of carols. The children received generous gifts of toys from Santa and  then the Sisters, Fr Patrick and the volunteers ate a traditional South African lunch with the children. The heat and humidity was in fine form so it reminded me of home very much.

Many of the children went home to relatives or to foster families for the holidays and 10 children were reunited for good. The preparation and lead up to over 30 children leaving for such an extended period of time was extraordinary and it is only possible due to the Social Worker here at Holy Family and the dedication of the Sisters particularly, and the volunteers who all contributed to doing whatever needed to be done. It was a very intense time. I had tears in my eyes when some of the children left, especially one little girl with whom I had been somewhat attached.  It is perhaps during the lead up to Christmas that I saw even more so the way in which the children here are looked after, cared for, loved and given as much opportunity as possible. It is sad when one thinks that many are going back to poverty and that only through their own resolve, motivation to be educated and resilience will they break the cycle. Despite this, the generosity of the Sisters was and is still paramount.

Through my emails in the past year I hope that I have raised your awareness about sustainable and peaceful development through volunteering with agencies such as Palms. This is part of their mission as is being able to participate in the exchange of knowledge and skills, developing capacity of communities and helping to reduce poverty. Palms’ values  include “solidarity”, brought about by love, respect and personal integrity and responsibility. Volunteering has shown me how I can participate in achieving or rather contributing these things in a real, tangible and worthwhile way. It is a privilege to be able to do it, with successes and challenges along the way, but always with love in my heart.

Coming here for me was about responding to the call of the Gospel and trying to find what God was asking of me. I have not had some “epiphany”. However, I feel at peace if this is the work that I need to continue to do again in the future. I thank Palms for their support, the Sisters and Fr Patrick here at Holy Family for their love, care and generosity. I hope I have opened  my “hands to the world” through my involvement with Palms as much as the Sisters and Priests open their hearts to the world with their ongoing missions. It is living with the local people, for me here in Africa however, that one realises that all the differences in the world are united by the one universal concept of love and care for fellow man. No matter the poverty, violence, indignity and every bad thing in between, a person’s love even if in the smallest of ways overcomes the darkness if but for a moment if not a life time.

Birthday resizeThis week we have welcomed back the ones who have been away and continued to prepare everyone for school- think of the 500 books that have been covered with brown paper and plastic- we did it in two nights! I had the best birthday, with the sisters baking a cake and the children making a sign and singing happy birthday, the best part was cutting the cake and blowing out the candles with the children, I felt like a child myself! Of course, birthday wishes from family and friends reminded me of how blessed I am.  I thank you all for your support over this year, thank you for your emails, for your best wishes and your encouragement. May God’s blessings be abundant in the New Year! As always I leave you with some photos; a leopardess I saw last week, my birthday, and of course the children, the last ones from Holy Family Care Centre, Ofcolaco, South Africa. See you in Sydney.



Hello from Africa No.8

November 18, 2014

It can be an uncomfortable chore for the Palms staff to request stories from our Volunteers in the Field for the Palms Post. This is never the case with volunteer Louisa Cataldo, who has provided a constant stream of stories from her placement. Here is her latest Update (No. 8!) from Holy Family Care Centre, […]

Click here to read the full article

Louisa’s Update No. 7

October 14, 2014

Louisa Cataldo provides another update from the teaching side of Holy Family Care Centre, South Africa: Life as a volunteer is filled with rewards and equally with some disappointments. And while one certainly does not go looking for the rewards, it is always such a pleasure when they come unexpectedly. And so it happened that […]

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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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You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. - Kahlil Gibran