When Groundsman extraordinaire Marcel Haughey began his SCEA career two years ago at Beechboro Christian School, he had travelled 15,000 kilometres from his hometown of Lurgan in Northern Ireland. On his first day, he met teacher Caroline LeCount in the staffroom. Her accent sounded familiar, and sure enough, she was from the tiny town of Lurgan, too!
"What are the chances?" says Marcel in his strong Irish brogue.
Fourteen years since leaving the United Kingdom, Marcel is a very happy man. Trading morning swims in the Irish Sea (6-7 degrees Celsius and mirky visibility) for the sun and sand of Perth's northern beaches was a 'no-brainer'. But there was something more than the sun that he craved.
Marcel was determined to offer his two sons the opportunities that the Northern Irish political landscape could not afford him in his younger years.
Northern Ireland in the 1980s was synonymous with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Sinn Fein and perpetual conflict between families, towns and religious groups. Marcel was not keen on seeing his own children grow up in this environment :
"When you have children, you broaden your horizons, and you want to offer them every chance in life. I see Australia as a place where we can come together, rather than be apart."
Marcel was raised as one of 14 children in a house right in the heartland of the Catholic/Protestant fighting. A brochure advertising a sunny life in Australia was all he needed to realise the dream of family life without conflict.
"They don't make it easy to come out here! Having said that, it's well worth it. Definitely no regrets for me," says Marcel with a smile that never leaves his face.
The process to reach Australia was not an easy one for Marcel and his wife. Two and a half years of bureaucratic red tape, significant financial costs and a stopover in Melbourne with Marcel's brother for a few years were all obstacles for the Haughey family before reaching Perth and a life serving the Ellenbrook and Beechboro schools in the SCEA system.
"It's going along very nicely. I love it! The people here are just wonderful. The interaction is very refreshing between staff and students. People here are all trying to do the right thing and co-exist in the world that God has given us."
When Marcel is not driving the bus between campuses or sorting out the school ovals' reticulation, he spends his weekends in the surf at Sorrento Surf Life Saving Club.
"It's great to be able to give back to a place that has given so much to my family and me."
Marcel, there must be sharks everywhere! Aren't you worried about that?
"No, I have never seen a shark in my time as a lifesaver. We deal more with youngsters who have drifted away from shore or got themselves into trouble. Not so long ago, these two young boys, no older than ten years old, had taken a canoe out and broken their paddles and were drifting a mile out to sea. Bringing them in was something I think they will remember for the rest of their lives."
Growing up in a religious community where views on God, Mother Mary and the Bible would vary from household to household, Marcel has some sage advice on where Christianity fits within his life and the lives of those around him :
"I believe that in everybody's life there comes a time where we need help. The wheels come off, we cannot make sense of life, and we need to find out what fills that void. For me, gaining a faith in what God has given me was so important during those periods in my life. When you're "drifting out too far" that's when we need help the most."
Keep an eye out for Marcel at Beechboro Christian School, Ellenbrook Christian College or on Sorrento Beach in his brightly-coloured attire!