Our Story is your story

Mellon Educate is an Irish-based African development charity founded by developer & philanthropist Niall Mellon in 2002 and established as a charitable company in 2004. Thanks to the enormous collective effort of our volunteers, in conjunction with the South African government, has built houses for 175,000 homeless people in South Africa’s poorest townships. This was only possible because ordinary people took selfless action to do something truly extraordinary, lend a helping hand on our annual “building blitz” in South Africa. In 2012, we proudly celebrated a milestone achievement for the charity with 25,000 houses completed.

In 2013, deep in the Irish recession, the charity redoubled its commitments to those less fortunate in Africa, pledging a 10-year education development programme to provide better education to more than 100,000 African children. A highly ambitious target in co-operation with local community school collaboration, Mellon Educate has already extended educational access and standards of education for over 50,000 primary school children aged between 4 and 12 in Kenya & South Africa. In 2014, due to phenomenal demand and a willingness by our dedicated, loyal volunteers, Mellon Educate ran two building blitzes in the same year, one in the same township community where the charity first built homes in 2002, another to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, building not one but two schools in his Eastern Cape homelands on Mthatha, Qunu.

2015 was another landmark year where 260 volunteers put their hands to good work in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, safeguarding the education of 1,650 young boys and girls. Formerly they lived in dilapidated shacks and went to a school that was tumble-down and under-resourced. Now they have a solid roof over their heads and the foundations are set to support education that lasts a life-time.

November 2016 brought 270 volunteers returning to rebuild and renovate schools in the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town. In just 7 days, volunteers completed 13 new classrooms, 2 toilet blocks, 1 kitchen and renovated 7 other buildings. 2,700 collective school pupils and countless children to come will benefit from this lasting legacy, the Mellon Educate Results Programme helping raise and sustain school grades from below 20% to above 75%.

Every year our volunteers create new inspiring stories of possibility for children deprived of opportunity in their lives. The legacy of the work accomplished in those 7 days, the skilled labour and heavy lifting of long days, is literally a life achievement. Volunteers are the life-blood of our charity and we value each and every one greatly. A 7 day building blitz in South Africa is an arduous undertaking. It’s no holiday in the sun! What’s more, fundraising to travel and support the construction projects is a colossal challenge before even our volunteers set foot on African soil.

That is why we’re appealing to you, local businesses and people of the community close to our volunteers, to dig deep, to put your hand in your pocket and give our volunteer a dig out so that they can roll up their sleeves and help lift children out of a life of hopelessness to a higher level of education, a level where they can contribute and shape their society. Nelson Mandela once said,
Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world“.

In supporting your neighbour’s volunteer efforts, you are equipping the next generation of Africa’s children with the essential tool for life; Education.
Please support our volunteers. Thank you!

Knowledge is power

Nelson Mandela once said

education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world

We want to give children in Africa the gift of education to help them create a sustainable future for themselves.

Laying Building Blocks for Life

This is the story of how one man, Niall Mellon, inspired a community of volunteers to put their hands to good work. By building new schools, renovating and modernising existing school campuses and providing educational support programmes to our collaboration school partners, the Mellon Educate charity is laying the foundations for citizen empowerment in African society.

Charity Timeline

Some of our significant milestones include:

2002: Mellon Educate founded to help alleviate appalling living conditions in South Africa’s townships.
2003: The first building blitz takes place when 153 Irish volunteers arrived at the Imizamo Yethu township in Cape Town and complete their target of 25 houses in one week.
2006: The charity is now getting significant international recognition for its approach to delivering quality social housing.
2007: Nelson Mandela writes to Niall Mellon to express his gratitude and admiration for the work of the charity and its incredible volunteers – describing them as “an inspiration”.
2007: Niall Mellon targets the US Administration to support the charity. Due to the fact that housing was not a primary objective of USAID, Niall Mellon set about changing policy. As a result, a law (Appropriations Bill) was subsequently passed in the US Congress on February 2, 2009, directing USAID to consider Mellon Educate specifically for future funding.
2008: Mellon Educate receives €5m in funding from Irish Aid. The charity is also working closely with the South African Government. The Irish Banks collapse and Niall Mellon’s business interests are adversely affected. He is advised by some people to close the charity and concentrate his efforts on himself. Instead, Niall reaffirms his commitment to hitting the charity’s target of housing 100,000 people.
2009: 3,500 volunteers (2,000 South Africans and 1,500 Irish) work with the charity on building blitz events. The charity has now created employment for more than 2,000 people from the local townships and is heavily involved in training and up-skilling.In the largest civic awards ceremony ever hosted by the City of Cape Town, Mellon Educate is presented with the prestigious Mayor’s Medal award for exceptional achievement in social affairs and services – the first foreign charity to receive the honour.
2010: Niall Mellon receives the Meteor Humanitarian Award in Ireland but says the thousands of volunteers who have who helped the charity “all owned a piece” of the award. South African President Jacob Zuma voices his support for Mellon Educate at a private meeting with Niall in Cape Town.
2011: The lives of 500 people living in squalid township shack conditions changed forever when volunteers completed the Witsand development project.
2012: November 16 in Wallacedene marks the end of the charity’s building blitzes in Cape Town. South African President Jacob Zuma visits the volunteers onsite to mark the occasion. Homes have now been built for more than 100,000 people.
October 2013: A building blitz, scheduled for Nairobi in Kenya, is cancelled for the first time ever, following a terrorist attack on the city’s Westgate shopping mall.
2013: The Mellon Educate school-building initiative still manages to open its first ever school, St Catherine’s, in the Mukuru slum in Nairobi, Kenya, on on schedule – after completing the 25 new classrooms in just six months.
2014: After building more than 22,500 homes for some 115,000 of the poorest people in South Africa, the home-building initiative draws to an close as the focus switches to school-building. 350 volunteers travel to Imizamo Yethu, Cape Town, and Kokstad in the Eastern Cape in March for the first Mellon Educate building blitz in South Africa. A further 200 volunteers fundraise for the ‘Mandela Blitz’ in the Eastern Cape in November. More than 20,000 people have volunteered with the charity to date.
2015: In November 2015, 250 volunteers from across the British Isles & Ireland joined forces to build and renovate schools in the township of Masiphumelele, Cape Town.
2016: 270 volunteers arrived from far and wide to transform schools in Khayelitsha. In just 7 days, we completed 13 new classrooms, 2 toilet blocks, 1 kitchen and renovated 7 other buildings to inprove the educational standards for 2,700 school pupils collectively, and countless more children to come.
2017: Building Blitz 2017 saw 280 volunteers return to Khayelitsha to work in 2 primary schools and a high school, 16 classrooms, 2 kitchens, 3 covered shelters, 2 playgrounds and for the first time an outdoor gym in the high school was constructed. 2017 also saw the first and very exciting Teaching Blitz take place, where 48 teachers from Ireland and UK worked in 5 schools in 3 townships close to Cape Town
2018: In July 2018 44 teachers continued the excellent work started in 2017 in 6 schools under the management of Mellon Educate, this programme is fast becoming an essential part of the work the charity carries out in South Africa. November of the same year saw 300 international volunteers, from 10 countries, work in the township of Wallacedene, north west of Cape Town, where previously over 5,000 houses had been built by the Mellon Housing charity. An additional 200 local volunteers from corporates based in Cape Town joined the overseas volunteers for the building week in a new initiative which Mellon Educate is promoting by involving local businesses in the schools we are assisting.
2019: Building Blitz 2019 saw over 300 volunteers head to Mfuleni Township to overhaul a primary school and a high school. The incredible results: 12 classrooms, 2 toilet blocks, 2 covered areas, a library and an outdoor gym built. Improvements also made to 2 netball fields and a sports field.
2022: Volunteers helped build 13 classrooms, 2 kitchens, 2 toilet blocks, covered play areas and 2 playgrounds over two sites at Yomelela and Injongo Primary Schools in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.