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Jemimah’s Story

 

Ten-year-old Jemimah Chihenga is a talkative and bubbly Grade 4 learner at Addington Primary School in inner-city Durban.  In her class of 45 learners, Jemimah has come to love social sciences, but still battles with maths, particularly long division.  Her teacher, Ms Mkhize, comes early in the morning before class to help Jemimah and other students with their maths.  This year, Jemimah reached Position 3 in her class; however, her academic achievements have been part of a longer journey that began four years ago.

In Grade 1, Jemimah was referred to CAST’s Wordworks Early Literacy Programme at Addington Primary.  Orginally from the DR Congo, Jemimah’s family speaks primarily Swahili at home.  Learning in a second language proved challenging for Jemimah, and she needed the extra support at Wordworks to help her develop the foundational English reading and writing skills needed to understand and complete her schoolwork.

She was paired with a volunteer who used games and activities to teach Jemimah phonics and spelling words. Thanks to this individual attention, Jemimah was able to graduate from the Wordworks programme, confident in her reading and writing skills.

More recently, Jemimah joined CAST’s ‘Give Your Brain a Hand’ creative arts programme at Addington Primary.  This programme supports development of the ‘right-brain’ through dance, needlework, speech & drama, and arts & crafts.  Jemimah particularly enjoys needlework, and has learned how to do basic stitching and embroidery.  So far, she has made a pin cushion, small handbag, jersey, apron and doll’s dress.  One day, she hopes to make a red tablecloth for her mother.

Jemimah would like to become a teacher when she’s older; however, her parents have encouraged her to pursue medicine.  Jemimah hopes to merge these two desires through helping people who have cancer or are HIV-positive.

During the July holidays this year, Jemimah also had the chance to attend CAST’s ‘Crowned’ Addington Holiday Club where she learned how to be royalty (including how to do royal bows) and to be grateful to God for protecting her family.

Jemimah’s father was part of starting the Evangelical Miracle Centre on Smith Street.  On the weekends, Jemimah is proud to sing in the choir at her dad’s church. She also participates in a Friday Bible study at Addington Primary with 38 other children.

CAST believes that in order to empower families and communities, we must rescue the cognitive potential of every child in every community where we partner through academic, creative arts and spiritual development programmes.  By reaching learners like Jemimah at the foundational phase, CAST is able to build the groundwork for academic success through developing reading and writing skills.  To learn more about how you can volunteer and support the Wordworks Early Literacy Programme, contact CAST at: 031 266 8830 or info@cast.org.za

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Nneka’s Story

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Nneka’s Story

By Rolan Gulston

Like many girls her age, twelve-year-old Nneka Useni from Addington Primary School loves spending time with her friends, reading, learning new recipes, taking selfies, and playing her favourite sport – netball, especially with her teammates on the CAST netball team. Over the years, CAST has developed a strong partnership with the school, facilitating early literacy programmes for the foundation-level, and sport and youth development programmes for the pre-teen age group.

Earlier this year, Nneka was one of 60 girls selected to attend the CAST Girls’ Camp, a 3-day retreat for the young ladies to learn about what it means to be resilient; mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. “I learnt so much in just one weekend and felt so spoilt, I was smiling the whole time,” Nneka reminisces.  She especially enjoyed the team-building exercises, which challenged the girls in their ability to problem-solve and find solutions together.

The camp, she feels, has greatly impacted her life in helping her to develop a stronger relationship with God.

“Before, I always felt like the whole world was coming for me. I didn’t trust people, but now I know that people care about me and that the bad things will make me stronger.”

Nneka attends the Christ Embassy Church at China Mall in the Durban CBD, and has also joined the teen youth group, which gives her the space to talk about evangelism, freely express her views, and pray for others, which she found difficult to do before.

Growing up as the only girl at home since her mother’s passing in 2010, Nneka finds it difficult to connect with her older brother attending high school, and her father, who seldom gets to spend quality time with them because of work. The family are currently under tremendous financial strain, living on a social grant from SASSA, but unable to afford electricity for the past 3 months.

Despite this, Nneka has learnt to face these challenges with a positive attitude, displaying maturity and confidence far beyond her years. Having been a learner at the school since Grade One, Nneka has become a leader in her own rite, taking on the duties of library and drama monitor, as well as MC’ing the school’s recent Heritage Day celebration concert.

Nneka’s dream is to become an entrepreneur in the fashion industry. She will be attending high school at Durban Girls’ Secondary from next year, and intends on keeping up her good academic, and behavioural record. Fortunately, she has had the encouragement of her teachers to speak up and work hard toward her goals. She has also greatly appreciated the support from Thandi, CAST’s Girls’ Sport Co-ordinator, in her approach to coaching. “Thandi’s fair, she takes the time to listen to us. It’s easy to open up to her,” she says. This has also helped Nneka to form a strong bond with her teammates, and learn the value of teamwork.

Nneka’s journey through her childhood years at Addington Primary School has been greatly enriched by the time and resources provided by CAST through the generosity of our sponsors and volunteers. If you would like to get involved in shaping young lives through the Girls’ Sport and Youth Development programmes run by CAST, contact Thandi on 031 266 8830 or thandi@cast.org.za

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Dudu’s Story

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Dudu’s Story

By Rolan Gulston

In 2005, at the age of 42, Dudu Hlongwane was one of only two survivors in a fatal taxi accident. After spending six months at a rehabilitation centre, Dudu was diagnosed with a T-12 level spinal injury which has left her paralysed from the waist-down.

While in recovery, Dudu was counselled by a psychologist, who helped her to come to terms with what had happened. Through this, Dudu held to her belief that when she returned home, “God would help [her].” Unfortunately, her return came with many challenges. As a single mother, she had to rely on her elderly mother for support in caring for her two young sons, the older of whom began acting out in response to the trauma of his mother’s accident.

In 2009, they moved into an RDP house in KwaDabeka, which was modified to include a driveway to accommodate Dudu’s wheelchair. Before the accident, Dudu had been working for 19 years as a machinist at the Playtex factory in Durban. When she left, Dudu used her retirement payout to renovate their house by extending the rooms and widening some of the doorways. She is unable to afford to renovate her bathroom which she has never been able to use due to lack of accessibility. Her current wheelchair also brings her great discomfort in that it is too big and does not provide adequate support for her feet.

In 2013, Dudu got in touch with CAST’s KwaDabeka Community Co-ordinator, who received her into the food parcel programme. Travelling 5km to collect her monthly food parcel at the Community Centre at KwaDabeka Baptist Church proved to be quite difficult, so the food parcels are now delivered to her home by CAST’s Relief Services HOD.

While it is difficult for Dudu to live without the physical freedom she once had, she says that “…it is God who helps [her] to get up every day.” With the right equipment and material, Dudu is keen to make use of her skills and experience as a sewing machinist.

This Sunday is CAST Food Parcel Sunday at Westville Baptist Church.  For R200 ($15.50), you can sponsor a food parcel for a local family in need. The food parcels can feed a family of 4 for 2 weeks.  For more information on how you can empower community members like Dudu, please see Sandy Reid at the ministry desk, or contact her at 031 266 8830 / sandy@cast.org.za

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Living Art: Malusi’s Story

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Growing up in the rural community of Bergville, Malusi Manzini’s passion for artwork, creativity and recycling began with creating one model of a rural home out of cardboard.  At first, Malusi did not plan on using his God-given talent in creative arts. However, with a family of four brothers and two sisters and no one working at home, he managed to use his creativity to support his family.  Malusi made more artwork out of the materials he could find, such as plastic materials and cardboard, and sold them to raise income each month.

After matriculating, Malusi moved to Chesterville in 2012 to live with his brother, and was able to study Social Work at UNISA.   He continued to create artwork as he completed his Social Work practical in the community.

“After moving away from a rural area towards the city of Durban, I was so fascinated by the kind of lifestyle lived here. I could easily draw the difference in the type of infrastructure found here in the city with the ones in the rural areas, I was so motivated by this difference that I even decided to take a picture of one of the houses and tried to build it into a smaller scale using cardboard as part of recycling.”

During this time, he met Nomakaya Mpambaniso, CAST’s Chesterville Community Co-ordinator, who took an interest in his artwork.  Nomakaya encouraged Malusi to showcase his artwork at West City Fellowship (WCF) in Chesterville, and she also connected Malusi with CAST’s Youth Development Programme.

Excited about the opportunity, Malusi joined CAST as a volunteer soccer coach working with 23 boys between the ages of 13-15 years old.  However, he envisioned the programme to go beyond just sports.  Malusi realised that some of the boys showed artistic potential, so he developed a formal Creative Arts Programme.

The boys use recycled plastic materials and cardboard to create their artwork.  CAST and WCF also support Malusi’s programme by donating materials such as brushes, paint, scissors and glue.

“I like to work with the younger boys and share stories.  I tell them to try to be creative, try to make your own things.  Don’t depend on your parents.  I encourage the boys to finish matric and go to university.”

Malusi and his boys are looking forward to attending the upcoming CAST boys2Men Camp in October.  Although Malusi has not attended the camp previously, he believes this will be a good opportunity for his boys to develop values such as respect and self-determination, while also spending quality time with peers to share ideas and support each other in learning how to become strong men.

In the past month, ten boys from Malusi’s programme have raised the necessary funds (R200/$15 per boy) to attend camp.  CAST still needs to raise another R350/$27 per boy to cover the entire cost of 60 boys attending camp.  This is a unique opportunity for the boys to experience life outside of their community, grow in their walk with the Lord and learn more about what it means to become a man.  If you are interested in sponsoring one of Malusi’s boys to go to boys2Men camp or donating art supplies for the Creative Arts Programme, please contact George at: george@cast.org.za or 079 596 7364

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Ayanda’s Story

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Ayanda’s Story

By Rolan Gulston

Two years ago, twenty-nine year old Ayanda Mkhwanazi would never have envisioned that soon, he would be the proud owner of a maize meal production company. One of 13 children at home, he grew up in the humble farmlands of the Umgungundlovu District in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

After matriculating from Wartburg School, he pursued his passion for sport and studied Sport Psychology for two years. Although this helped Ayanda in developing a strong sense of focus and determination, he faced daily challenges in journeying home each evening after late lectures when public transport had already closed operations for the day.

Sadly, he did not have the financial means to further his studies as his grandfather, who had taken the role as his primary guardian since the passing of his father, already had the responsibility of supporting Ayanda’s two younger brothers.

With his dream of becoming a professional soccer player slipping further out of reach as he got older, Ayanda made a decision to go a different route and work as a promoter for a well-known liquor brand, but continued to play soccer socially for a local team. He developed a close friendship with one of his team mates, Bradley Bester, who welcomed Ayanda into his family. Bradley’s mother, Nicky, in particular, played a strong, supportive role in mentoring Ayanda.

The Bester family moved to England for two years, their absence strongly affecting Ayanda’s sense of stability. He began drinking and smoking to cope with the pain, negatively affecting his behaviour and attitude to the point of being kicked out of the house by his aunt whom he was living with in the city.

With nowhere else to stay, he returned home to live with his grandfather on the farm. In this environment, job opportunities were scarce. Having few other options, Ayanda asked a friend living in Pinetown if he knew of a room available to rent. He received a positive response, with the owner generously agreeing to keep the room for Ayanda until he could raise funds to pay the R820 ($63) rent.

By God’s perfect timing, the Bester family returned to South Africa the very next week. In seeing the stagnation of Ayanda’s progress since their emigration, they assisted him in raising the rent money by paying him R200 ($15) an hour to train with Bradley for soccer. Soon, not only did Ayanda have enough money to pay the rent, he could also afford to furnish the room with a fridge, bed and kettle.

After soccer training, Ayanda and Bradley frequented the then newly-opened Talkhouse Coffee Shop at Westville Mall for coffee and breakfast. Shane, the owner of the coffee shop, soon took an interest in Ayanda and offered him a job. Without prior experience as a waiter, Ayanda began working part-time as a ‘runner’ cleaning tables, but, gradually, under Shane’s guidance, grew in skill and understanding of the business. During this time, the Westville community took a strong liking to Ayanda, his humble and gentle manner resonating especially with older customers, who urged Shane to hire him as a full-time employee.

A frequent customer at the Talkhouse from a local Westville church would seek out Ayanda especially, and came to be known as his ‘granny’. She gifted him with a brand new Bible, which Ayanda accepted, but admittedly first started reading simply to pass the time after work. His view changed as he found himself engrossed in scripture for hours at a time.

One Sunday, Ayanda accepted the invitation from a friend to attend a service at Westville Baptist Church after his morning shift at the coffee shop. This is where the Bible “came to life” for Ayanda, who was new to this style of worship. His exposure to the teachings of the Christian faith led him to become more consciously aware of the areas in his life where he was not following a Christ-like path. Within two months, he joined a cell group and signed up for the Alpha course, which helped him to gain a clear sense of direction and inspired him to take another bold step forward in his personal growth.

In 2017, Ayanda made the difficult decision to leave his job at the Talkhouse and start his own business. Bradley Bester came on board as his business partner, and together they launched “Numzane Super White Maize Meal”. Growing up, the maize grown on his grandfather’s farm was a main source of nutrition for Ayanda, and the brand name “Numzane” meaning “sir” in isiZulu also carried with it a sentimental meaning as the title his grandfather often called him as a term of endearment.

In the months following, Ayanda and Bradley worked closely to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of running a business. They decided to primarily market the product to suit the financial constraints of those living in rural areas. “I don’t care about the big shops”, Ayanda asserts, as he works long hours to personally deliver the maize directly to customers in the KwaZulu-Natal region. His dream is to make a meaningful impact in helping to end hunger in poor communities. CAST has partnered with Ayanda to supply the maize meal for food parcels distributed to seven local communities each month as part of our Relief Services Programme, made possible by generous donations in funding. This programme benefits 280 families living in poverty, 77% of which have a household income of less than R2 000 ($154) a month.  CAST empowers these families through Poverty Stoplight, a visual survey that helps the families to self-diagnose their level of poverty and develop a personal strategy to lift them permanently out of poverty.  Through CAST’s Business Development programme, food parcel beneficiaries are also empowered with the tools to start their own small businesses like Ayanda.

For others wanting to become entrepreneurs, Ayanda advises that it starts with good mentorship, because “you need someone who can help you understand where you want to go, and what you can do with your life.” CAST’s Business Development programme offers the opportunity for those with the knowledge and skill to mentor others like Ayanda to reach their business goals and become strong leaders in their communities. To get involved in this programme, or sponsor a food parcel for a local family in need, contact CAST at: 031 266 8830

Additionally, if you would like to support Ayanda through purchasing Numzane Super White Maize Meal, please contact Sandy Reid at: sandy@cast.org.za

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CAST at Daleview High Tea: Grace, Glamour & Grit

CAST at Daleview High Tea: Grace, Glamour & Grit

By Cindy Whittle

“The world will never realise 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realise their full potential. When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all.”  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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Youth empowerment through resilience training is one of four focus areas of community development at the Church Alliance for Social Transformation (CAST). This, together with her passion for advocacy in the subject of gender equality, is one of the reasons why CAST’s General Manager, Charmaine Moses, jumped at the opportunity to address the young ladies at Daleview High School accompanied by CAST staff members, Cindy Whittle and Noeleen Moonsamy. On the 18th of August, Daleview held their annual High Tea.  Having spent the first five years of her teaching career at the school, Mrs. Moses felt at home, challenging the girls on what it means to be ‘3G-compliant’ and even better, ‘4G-compliant’.

“Girls, you’ve got to have Grace, Glamour and Grit to achieve your goals – the ‘3G’s”, elaborated Mrs. Moses, as the girls listened intently.

Mrs. Whittle also took the opportunity to share her personal story, a testament to the role that grit has played in helping her to overcome challenges she has faced in her life. “Having grit means digging deep and pressing on when things are really hard”, she conveyed.

In closing, Charmaine boldly asked the girls, “What could be better than ‘3G’?”, answered by a resounding “4G!” Mrs. Moses excitedly shared what the addition of the 4th and most important ‘G’, God, has made to her life.

“With God the other ‘3G’s are fast-tracked” she said. “Grace, glam and grit is made possible with God in our lives. Even true glamour comes from within.”

The girls were presented with a “Certificate of Attendance” for their first ‘4G’ course and gifted with small tokens representing female empowerment, followed by tea and treats. CAST in partnership with Cornerstone Community Church (Longbury Drive, Phoenix) looks forward to building on the lessons shared in this first session with the young ladies at Daleview High School that may foster a culture of spiritual and emotional resilience for our leaders of tomorrow.

To learn more about CAST’s impact in Phoenix, contact Daniel Moses at: mosesdaniel20@gmail.com or 071 364 4860

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Manicures & Mentoring: Celebrating Women’s Month at CAST

Manicures & Mentoring: Celebrating Women’s Month at CAST

By Rolan Gulston & Laura Mbugua-Mwaura

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During Women’s Month, CAST partnered with two community churches, West City Fellowship & Cornerstone Community Church, to celebrate the beauty, strength and resilience of women.

In celebration of Women’s month, the ladies of West City Fellowship (WCF) hosted a Women’s Day Pampering Event for CAST’s food parcel recipients in Chesterville.  Recently, CAST had the chance to hear back from Vani Perumal, Vishani Pillay and the other WCF volunteers about their experience:

Q: What inspired WCF to organise the Women’s Day Event?

A: Sandy Reid [CAST Relief Services HOD] suggested it and WCF members were only too willing to oblige.  It was a pleasure to serve the humble women of Chesterville.

Q: How did the ladies respond to being pampered?

A: The highlight for them that morning was being pampered with back massages and manicures. Some of the women were in tears having said, “Never in my life has anyone ever done this for me, no one has ever massaged my hand before.” These were women in their 60s.  From the sharing of God’s Word, the dynamic time we had in praise and worship, to being served tea with delicious cakes and savouries, the women of Chesterville were in their absolute element.

Q: What did the WCF volunteers enjoy most or learn from serving the ladies?  

A: It was a humbling and enjoyable morning.  The ladies absolutely loved the pampering and the food that was provided and we all had a great time.

 

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Earlier in the month, CAST also partnered with Cornerstone Community Church (CCC) to host a Mother & Daughter Mentoring Conference in Phoenix.  140 women attended the conference to learn more about developing and restoring relationships with other women, as well as developing strong decision-making skills and conflict resolution with their families.

Sharm Moses of CCC explained, “There seems to be a decline in mother and daughter relationships in our community [Phoenix]. Daughters need guidance in their decision-making and mothers need mentoring on developing their parenting skills. Foundation is paramount for us to build a thriving community.”

CAST is thankful for these opportunities to partner with local churches to celebrate and empower women in our communities, not just for Women’s Month, but for each day where women are faced with challenges that continue to hinder the realization of gender equality.