Even though our school building has been closed over the last few months, our school community has been thriving. Online classes, year group meets and activities across all subject areas have ensured that we have all remained connected over these difficult weeks. The following is just a flavour of what has happened in our school before and after the Covid 19 Lockdown.
In February after many months of fundraising and planning, four of our students accompanied by PE teacher Rachael O’Halloran and our school chaplain Fr. Donagh O’Meara travelled to Missionvale in South Africa to carry out missionary work. This is an account by Liam Lenihan, one of our 6th year students who experienced the life changing journey.
My Experience in Missionvale
When I arrived in Missionvale for the first time, I genuinely had no idea what to expect. You can read all the literature and watch all the videos but until you come face to face with the poverty that exists in this community, it is impossible to fully comprehend the scale of the problems that these people are forced to deal with on a daily basis. On that first morning, as we travelled by bus to the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, I watched the shops and apartment buildings fall away to smaller and more derelict homes. I have to confess to feeling a degree of trepidation. The world of the townships is completely removed from anything anyone in Ireland could ever experience. Luckily, there was no need to feel uneasy. When we pulled up outside the Missionvale Care Centre, we were greeted by the locals, cheering, singing and, bizarrely, waving Irish flags. This was the first indication of the incredible warmth and friendliness that we would experience during our time at the care center.
It is extremely difficult to pick out just a few memories from the trip. One of the most impactful experiences was visiting a number of homes in the township with one of the care workers. The very first home we entered was occupied by a blind, bedridden, ninety year-old woman. The care workers explained that this woman was left alone every day while her son went out to work. Even now, I can picture every feature of that tiny, lonely hut perfectly; the small gas cooker, positioned on a bare concrete brick in the corner, the lone window, cracked and coated in dirt and grime and the old woman herself, propped up in bed on a filthy pile of cushions. Standing by her bedside while the care worker took her blood pressure, I felt a range of emotions: Sympathy, shock and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. In that moment, I felt more like a tourist than anything else, a detached observer suddenly launched into this world.
Of course, many of our experiences were far more encouraging and uplifting. I particularly recall our first encounter with the kids in the school run by the care center. As soon as we set foot into the schoolyard, we were set upon by what can only be described as a herd of giddy, excited children. The more timid lads simply wanted a high-wave. Some of the more familiar characters managed to convince me, against my better judgement, to spin them around and carry them on my shoulders. A substantial queue of beaming faces soon formed in front of me, all waiting for their turn on the newest playground attraction.
Despite the issues in this community, I was struck again and again by the sense of hope, optimism and positivity that seems to pour out of the people of the township. They have so little and yet are so grateful. Every morning, we took part in the daily practice of devotions, where several members of the staff meet to sing, dance and praise God without any inhibitions or reservations. Their positivity is infectious. Returning to Ireland, I was shocked and appalled by the petty complaints, cynicism and lack of enthusiasm, so prevalent in our attitudes and personalities. I genuinely learnt a lot from the people of Missionvale and I feel that all of us, in our relatively privileged lives could benefit by following their example and attempting to become more positive, optimistic people.
by Liam Lenihan, 6th year
Student Enterprise Programme
The Regional Student Enterprise Program County Final Awards took place in March in the West County Hotel in Ennis. We are so proud of all our creative and innovative students that participated in this fantastic competition which really showcased their entrepreneurial talents!
In the Intermediate category our second year students Amy Corry and Sara Griffin were second overall and won best stand with their business ‘Pin It’.
In the senior category Tyre’D’Pets came third in the manufacturing category as well as winning the ‘Best Stand’. Sustainaboxx came first in the retail category and Atlantic Beauty came first in the manufacturing category as well as overall winners of the competition. The girls produced organic lip balms and bath bombs inspired by the ‘Wild Atlantic way’ on their doorstep. Since winning in March, the girls have been busy on social media and online promoting their company in preparation for representing Clare in the National Virtual Final on May 26th. Best of luck girls!
Schools Skills Challenge
As there was no Fun Day this year, our Principal, Mr. Reidy wanted to bring families together and create a fun filled week, calling on students, staff and even past teacher Marty Morrissey to take on a series of challenges. The challenges included sport, photography, film, cookery, music, DIY to name a few. The uptake has been tremendous and these activities have brought great joy, laughter and connectivity to our wonderful students, staff, parents and wider community. All the activities were posted on the school’s Twitter and Facebook pages and we discovered the hidden talents of many of our staff and students in the process! A huge thank-you to Ms King and her WellBeing Warriors who helped in the coordination of challenges. Also a special thank you to Ms King for all her motivational posts on the school Facebook Page during the Lockdown which spurred everyone on!!
Leaving Cert Class 2020
As we come to the end of what has been an unusual school year, our thoughts are with our Leaving Cert Class of 2020. We look forward to the future when we can reminisce about your time spent at St. Joseph’s and chat about all the milestones and memories created by this talented group of young men and women.