Photo (by Illa Thompson): Their dream of the Dalton Clinic comes true: Craig Roodt (Container World), Mary Ann Carpenter (DHC Clinic Co-ordinator), Councillor Lelo Zuma, Cardinal Napier and Eurakha Singh (eThekwini Area Based Management)

Denis Hurley Centre Clinic opened by the Cardinal

For the past two years, the clinic team from the Denis Hurley Centre has been trying to serve a group of about 400 families living in and around the Dalton Beer Hall in South Durban. Many of these people are addicts; they live in terrible conditions and would otherwise have no access to healthcare.

Services began with an evening clinic once a week; soon a pre-school was set up to provide a safe educational environment for the children left playing around in the mud. Then the team started going regularly during the day as part of a drive-around outreach service—better than nothing, but not ideal since they were using a gazebo set up on a dirty patch of ground.

Their dream was to have a proper clinic and that dream has finally been realised thanks to Container World which donated a container converted into a smart 4-room clinic. Support has also come from the Umbilo Business Forum, Lead Architects, We Are Durban and UKZN medical students (who have planted a garden and will soon, we hope, be assisting in the clinic).

It was finally the commitment of the Municipality—and the South Durban Area Management team—which helped bring all the pieces together. They prepared and secured the site, and will soon be connecting the clinic to water and electricity. No wonder there was such joy from the hundreds of local residents, partners, donors, staff and volunteers when Cardinal Napier blessed the new clinic recently.

Visiting the original Dalton Road clinic years ago is what first alerted the Cardinal to the plight of drug addicts living on the streets. He was shocked to discover that the recovery programmes available were so limited. He started talking about the need for the Church to respond to the drugs crisis, showing solidarity with addicts and families, encouraging priests and lay people in the Archdiocese to learn about addiction. “We have to help people rediscover the person God made them to be,” he said.

The most concrete response will be the Napier Centre 4 Healing, a residential facility offering up to 12 months of rehabilitation and reintegration for those addicts who have been written off by society, and even by their families. The Cardinal has donated the old Catholic boarding school at Ekukhanyeni (which means the ‘place of light’). Refurbishment has been completed on the first of the buildings which will eventually accommodate 40 people. The centre will help people to draw on their spiritual values, whatever their faith, as part of the journey of ‘conversion of heart’. There will also be vocational training to help the residents lead new lives when they return to society.

[With acknowledgement to Raymond Perrier of the Denis Hurley Centre]

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