Jen’s Story

The first time you set foot in a township in South Africa, you begin to see things a little differently.

In 2008-09, I had the life-changing opportunity to work at the Missionvale Care Center while living in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  It is very difficult to put into words the impact this experience had on me.  I always tell people that once you visit Missionvale Township, tour the Care Center, and meet Sr. Ethel, something inside of you changes.

Well, my change reached very deep and inspired a new direction for me.

Once you learn and understand the history of the apartheid era in South Africa and the detriment it left behind for these people, it is hard to not want to help.

Such a large part of my wanting to give back came from the kindness of the people and the big smiles on the children’s faces.  Whenever you were walking around the Care Center, you would always be warmly greeted with a big smile and “molo” (hello in Xhosa).  And then there was the singing and dancing.  When there was a special occasion and many times, just because, the ladies would break into song and dance.  That is part of their culture and I found it very amazing to experience.

Maybe it was partly because of feeling so blessed for the opportunity to work with Sr. Ethel Normoyle everyday.  Sr. Ethel has a way about her that I have never experienced with anyone else.  She has dedicated her life to providing hope for the people of Missionvale.  She is extremely quick-witted with an underlying feistiness who won’t take “no” for an answer.  She has the patience of a saint when with people, but also knows how to push when something needs to get done.  She has the biggest heart, most compassion, and willing to give everything she knows to create a spark of hope in the people of Missionvale.

While working at the Missionvale Care Center, some of my responsibilities included communicating with supporters of Missionvale from all over the world.  It became very clear to me the difficulties and inefficiencies there were when people from the United States wanted to make a contribution.  It was also clear to me that there was a large following that wanted to be involved with the Care Center and interested in receiving updates.

I had a good amount of interaction with two groups that had already been established as support networks to the Care Center – Missionvale Ireland and Missionvale Australia.  I knew that at some time in the near future, there needed to be a Missionvale USA.

The year I spent working at the Missionvale Care Center with Sr. Ethel and the rest of the staff was the most amazing and life-changing experience I have ever had.  I can only hope that I may again return to Missionvale to continue this work.  But until that day, I am passionately committed to doing whatever I can to help from wherever I may be – near or far.


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