Veterans spread festive cheer at children's home in poor African township
PUBLISHED: 19:00 29 December 2019
NIGEL SEAMAN/POLO FOR HEROES
Helping orphans in a South African township to have a better Christmas has given an inspirational band of Suffolk military veterans the chance to confront their own mental health issues.
The group of 15 ex-service personnel, who all live with post-traumatic stress disorder or were medically discharged, spent a week in the South African township Kahyelitsha in December to help give local orphans a memorable Christmas by repairing and decorating the orphanage where they live.
Organised by Polo for Heroes, the visit focused around Baphumelele Fountain of Hope, based in the rapidly-expanding township, home to more than 390,000.
Former Royal Anglian solider Nigel Seaman, 46, from Ipswich, said the trip has given him a newfound outlook on life.
Mr Seaman said: "I came home from the week away and sat down... And it all suddenly hit me with a bang.
"It really makes you realise how lucky you are in life. Without the support they receive, these children would have nothing at all.
"We threw a Christmas party for the kids and provided some much-needed repairs, it was an honour to help."
Directed toward young people aged 18-21, many who live at the facility have been orphaned from a young age, wile others have been trafficked or sexually abused. It hopes to provide vulnerable people with a safe, nurturing environment while teaching necessary skills to help them finish their education.
The organisation also runs an orphanage in the township, housing more than 100 children aged between zero and 18, started by Rosalia "Mama Rosie" Mashale.
Mr Seaman said the trip also helped the veterans personally by helping them better understand their own mental health problems.
He added: "All of us out there had a story to tell, but we listened to each other. We didn't judge each other.
"I remember looking up at the summer sun and thinking... 'I can continue to dwell on the past, or I can look forward' - an epiphany.
"It was just a brilliant trip. I even managed to get completely sunburnt in December... It's not often you hear someone say that!"
A Just Giving page set up for the visit has so far reached £1,145 of its £1,600 target.
Those interested in donating to the project can do so here.