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Triumphant in Christ: Tryphina Mhlanzi’s Story

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Since joining CAST four years ago, Tryphina Mhlanzi, affectionately known as “Mam’Njazi”, has brought life to CAST’s Food Parcel Ministry Days on her visits to our Community Centres in Mariannridge, Lamontville, Noodsberg and Chibini this past year with her passionate and upbeat leading of praise and worship. She is also a participant in CAST’s Business Forum as well as a facilitator for the weekly support group at West City Fellowship, CAST’s partner church in Chesterville, which welcomes ladies from the community and members of the church to come together and build meaningful relationships.

Growing up in Greytown, she came to Durban in the 1980s seeking employment as a domestic worker and worked for several families in Westville. Through one of her employers who attended Westville Truth and Fellowship Church (now West City Fellowship), she was invited to a weekly gathering with other domestic workers during their lunch breaks to listen to the Word.

It was at this gathering, 32 years ago, where Tryphina met Nomakaya Mpambaniso, current Community Co-ordinator for CAST in the Chesterville area, who was also employed as a domestic worker at the time. Their friendship has grown into a deep bond over the years, as they have also served together as foster mothers at Vukukhanye Children’s Home, a transition home established by WCF 12 years ago. Since taking on that position at the home, Tryphina has witnessed the anguish of many abused children that have come into her care, and has felt both joy and sadness in welcoming some and bidding farewell to others.

In her spare time, Tryphina oversees the running of a ‘spaza’ shop started up by her late husband in Marianhill. Participating in CAST’s Local Economic Development programme has taught her useful knowledge and skills in improving her business, particularly in branding, book-keeping and networking. Most valuable, though, has been learning the importance of keeping God at the centre of her business practice, “because we cannot do anything without God,” she says.

Although Tryphina takes comfort in having a strong relationship with God, she shares that this was not always the case, particularly when she was younger.

“People in my community talked about church, but they didn’t talk about God. To be a Christian is not about going to the building, it’s about having a relationship with God” she says.

As a single mother of two daughters, she has found herself having to rely on God more and more to get by. Her husband suffered a long-term illness and passed away 12 years ago. Her elder daughter, Mbali, a qualified journalist, is an active leader serving in the youth ministry of the church, but is currently unable to find full-time employment. Tryphina’s younger daughter, Tracy, a past participant in CAST’s Youth Development programme is diligently working towards attaining a degree in Teaching.

Tryphina’s message to those that she ministers to is one of hope and encouragement to use what God has given them by taking every opportunity to improve their circumstances and ultimately move out of poverty, without shame. She readily shares her testimony and motivates people to also inspire others with what God has been doing in their lives. “To have a challenging life,” she says, “is to know that God is using me. That’s where I find boldness.”

Building supportive relationships with those we serve in our communities is at the centre of our mission in helping them to know God and move out of financial and spiritual poverty. To be a part of this ministry in any of the 10 sites in which we operate, contact Head of Relief Services Sandy Reid at: sandy@cast.org.za or call (031) 266 8830.

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Faith like [Sweet] Potatoes: Philisiwe Sithole’s Story

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Married mother of two, Philisiwe Sithole, has big dreams for her gardening and recycling project at her home in Chesterville. “God gave me a passion for growing my own food,” she says.

She and her family moved from Sherwood to Chesterville two years ago. Though challenged by limited space at her previous home, she explored container gardening using 2-litre plastic bottles and ‘grow bags’ to grow spinach and chillies.

Now, Philisiwe makes use of cardboard materials such as toilet rolls and egg trays for compost in her outdoor garden. Philisiwe is determined to grow her produce organically, with no chemicals.

Not long ago, she harvested a large mielie (corn) plantation and grew many other crops which helped to sustain her family and share with neighbours. Philisiwe laments that she did not have the knowledge or resources to sustain that level of growth. Her yard now sits bare and weed-infested, save for the recently planted patch of sweet potatoes.

“People don’t believe that you can do gardening here. They think you can only do it on a farm. I see the possibilities of gardening here.”

Philisiwe spotted the potential of a section of vacant land close to her backyard where community members were dumping waste. She has since applied for and been granted permission by the Local Councillor to use it for a vegetable garden, which she has now cleared up and used to plant butter beans. Philisiwe plans to grow chillies, garlic and green peppers as there are no other vendors selling those nearby, which would make her a sole supplier for the high demand of these agricultural products.

Philisiwe works with an elderly woman in her community, Mam Mavis. In October 2018, she entered a traditional food competition run by the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development using the vegetables from her garden and took first place, winning cooking appliances.

Personally, Philisiwe’s family receives an income through a government grant for child support, piece jobs that her husband does, as well as money from renting out their home in Sherwood.

Since moving to Chesterville, she joined West City Fellowship, CAST’s partner church in the area, and first heard about CAST when they announced the Business Course. Philisiwe also currently volunteers as a tutor in the Word Works Early Literacy programme facilitated by CAST at HP Ngwenya Primary School.

She has completed the second module of the Paradigm Shift Business Growth Course where she has learnt more about marketing and the importance of knowing God as you are running your business.

For Philisiwe and her family, West City Fellowship has been the first church where she feels their personal and spiritual needs are met holistically. Having a relationship with the church leaders has given her a safe space to share her experiences, personal problems and feel supported. She reflects on the improvement in her personal life, as well as in her children.

In order to start up and develop her business, Philisiwe needs a business plan and mentorship in gardening to ensure sustainability and consistency and looks forward to getting in touch with those who have the skills to teach her more about gardening.

This year, Philisiwe hopes to attend “Farming God’s Way”, a 7-day in-field mentoring course taking place in October aimed at teaching practical skills in agriculture in poor communities. The cost of the course is R2500, which includes meals and accommodation.

If you are keen to contribute to the cost of Philisiwe’s training or share expertise in agriculture and business, contact CAST on (031) 266 8830 or e-mail head of Local Economic Development, Janet Okoye, at: janet@cast.org.za

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Hope for the Future: Judith’s Story

By Rolan Gulston

cast-judith-volunteer-hope-mariannridge01Since joining CAST as a programme participant two years ago, 31-year-old Judith Abrams has made a valuable impact in giving back to her community as a volunteer for CAST’s Child Literacy and Youth Development programmes.

Judith came to know CAST through a friend who worked at the Mariannridge CAST Community Centre assisting in the facilitation of programmes. She then signed up to participate in the Business Experience and Business Growth courses to learn how she could improve her own small business of selling cooked food from home, which she has been running for the past 2 years.

After successfully completing the course and graduating in 2018, Judith felt a renewed passion to expand her business, which she co-runs with her sister. Firstly, by registering her enterprise, “Judith’s Fast Food”, and then applying to the Local Councillor for permission to operate at the community taxi rank, the busiest spot in the area. Her long-term goal is to invest her profits into starting a franchise.

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Since learning these new skills, Judith feels a greater sense of self-belief and hope for the future. She looks forward to joining CAST’s sewing team in Mariannridge and would like to learn how to make evening attire, as there is a big market for Matric dance outfits in her community. Judith also dreams of pursuing a career in nursing, particularly in paediatrics, as she feels called to work with children.

This love of children drew her to volunteering with CAST as a tutor for the Word Works Early Literacy programme for Grade One’s, as well as facilitating the Resilience Life Orientation programme for the Grade Six learners at Mariannridge Primary School, a stone’s throw away from the CAST Community Centre.

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Learning how to teach Foundational Literacy using the Word Works material has helped Judith beyond the classroom in assisting her son who experiences learning difficulties due to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). She has developed a greater understanding of his cognitive-developmental level and has learnt how to be more patient with him.

The Resilience programme forms part of the national Life Orientation school curriculum, guiding children in the pre-teen age group to make ‘smart moves’ and work towards achieving their goals. Mentoring the children in this programme has created the space for Judith to form strong, supportive relationships with the youth in her community.

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The programme has helped Judith to “become one with the children in the community. They open up more,” she says. Having a 12-year-old daughter herself, Judith enjoys mentoring this age group as they move into their teen years and need more guidance through the many changes in their development, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Two children that Judith has worked with, in particular, have made great strides in improving their behaviour. One, a young boy bullied about his weight, who, in turn, started bullying others, has since stopped picking fights at school. Another, a young girl who turned to alcohol to cope with personal difficulties, invited Judith to join her family Sunday lunch and has been encouraged by Judith to make better choices.

Growing up in challenging circumstances, Judith knows first-hand the undue strain that these children experience when they are forced to grow up too quickly and take on adult responsibilities at home, often turning to harmful substances to alleviate the pressure. Her family did not have a steady income, and she suffered through an abusive relationship with her aunt. Other than her sister whom she currently lives with, Judith has little family support – her mother having passed away when she was younger, and her father remarrying and moved away. The father of Judith’s two children died tragically in a motorcycle accident.

Becoming a mother gave Judith the strength to stand up for herself and move past the pain. She has since made peace with the aunt who raised her and continues to pray for her. Being part of a strong spiritual community at a church in Mariannridge also helps Judith to feel supported and make positive changes in her life.

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Judith believes that there is hope, too, for the youth in her community. The key, she says, is “to stand together, and show them that we care.” Spending time consistently engaging with children and youth in the programmes have shown to have a significant positive impact on their development. If you would like to get involved in mentoring or tutoring in one of CAST’s target communities, contact us at: info@cast.org.za or call (+27) 31 266 8830 for more information.