This past November, 2,000 Irish volunteers made it possible for 3,000 South Africans in Khayelitsha, Cape Town to achieve the human right to shelter and security, the ultimate goal of the Niall Mellon Township Trust. The Trust has constructed over 10,000 homes since it was founded in 2002 by property developer, entrepreneur and humanitarian Niall Mellon, only 35 at the time. The Trust offers training in construction skills year-round, providing employment opportunities for 2,000 South Africans, mostly from the townships in which houses are built. The Trust's "Building Blitz" is a yearly event in which volunteers build hundreds of houses in just one week. The Building Blitz 2008 participants surpassed their goal of 250 houses, erecting 253 homes for families who have waited up to 25 years for a residence. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu expressed his gratitude and the significance of the volunteers' work when he spoke to them in Khayelitsha. "I come on behalf of those who are now occupying 10,000 beautiful, attractive homes. I come on behalf of them. Niall, you have already left an indelible mark and we will never be able to express what it must mean to those children and their parents that they are able to walk into a home that has ceilings and a front door that locks . . . For a long time they won't believe it." Niall Mellon also emphasized the impact that the experience had on the Irish participants when he spoke on his return from the Building Blitz. "Many of our volunteers returned to Ireland uncertain of their own futures. They returned home after a week that has changed their own lives and the lives of all those whom they have housed, met, sang and wept with in South Africa." He continued, "This week they face a task of describing to their own kinfolk the sight of seeing a child smile as they cross the threshold . . . the incredible moment when a house is filled with laughter and it becomes their home." Over the past seven years, over 5,000 Irish volunteers have played a vital role in the NMTT's Building Blitzes. Upon accepting a new house on her family's behalf, one woman said, "Both my children have HIV. Now this house has given them a future . . . they cannot take the smile off their faces. We used to fear the rain because it made us wet and cold. Not anymore! Now I will have to go outside to see if it is raining. I hope the Irish will come and visit me next year."
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