A FORMER Plymouth University student who set up a charity to support orphaned children in South Africa has returned from a four-month visit.
Harrison Nash, from Mannamead, has been volunteering in Port Elizabeth as a social worker and has come back to Plymouth for two weeks before heading back.
He has been working on a number of projects within the charity including Protea Primary and the Siyakatala Child and Youth Care Centre.
“There are 32 children at the centre, receiving full time residential care aged from four to 17 and I am involved with all of them on a daily basis, often working 9am to 9pm,” he explained.
The 23-year-old is a former pupil at Devonport High School for Boys and graduated in Social Work from Plymouth University.
Working with street children on a near daily basis Harrison said what he has witnessed has been challenging.
He said: “Most recently I have been involved with children as young as 12 sleeping in bins. Some I have worked with have been withdrawing from substances including heroin, cocaine and cannabis.
“The effect of this has even caused suicide attempts; one striking moment from this trip has been accompanying a boy to hospital after attempting suicide at the centre and actually chasing him as he ran out of the hospital pulling him back from the side of a car park as he was trying to throw himself off the side.”
Having founded the charity in 2009, this month it is celebrating its three year anniversary.
Harrison added: “On a professional level it is a challenging work environment where I must always be on high alert but one where I have been fortunate to see the rewards from forming positive relationships and building the self-esteem and insight of those inspiring young people I am working with.
“Some of the cases I have worked with have made huge progress, and the particular boy I recalled most recently became one of the competitors in the Iron Kids Tournament, undertaking a 100metre swim and 2km run to great success.”
Harrison has just launched a Children Off The Street 2012 Text Campaign. Supporters can text COTS12 £1 to 70070. The donation amount can be changed.
For more information visit www.maranathacarechildren.com.