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Building Resilience in our Youth: Azriel’s Story

At CAST, we believe that resilience is key to being able to deal with life’s challenges and bounce back from setbacks. In addition to our sport and discipleship programmes, we are excited to be running the Smart Moves Resilience programme as part of the national Life Orientation curriculum that will reach over 400 youth in our communities this year – many of whom have already shown great improvement in their level of engagement and participation at school.

The programme was piloted in 2018 at two schools in Phoenix, one of CAST’s target communities in KZN, with 115 learners in attendance. The Smart Moves curriculum is adopted from the resilience framework formulated by a UK-based resilience research group, BoingBoing, in the UK, with the aim of guiding children in the pre-teen age group to make “smart moves” as they navigate their way through adolescence and into adulthood. After regular sessions over a period of a few months, many of the learners reported enjoying the programme and teachers at the schools began to see significant improvement in the children’s conduct and willingness to learn.

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12-year-old Azriel Joseph from Mariannridge Primary School is one of 188 Grade Six learners who participate in CAST’s Resilience programme each week.

Azriel shares that he used to be shy, and was often bullied at school, afraid to speak up. Participating in the programme has helped him to overcome this and taught him valuable life lessons – how to be responsible, safe, and look out for others if they’re in trouble. “I used to hang out with the wrong crowds,” he says, “but now I’m deciding who to play with. It’s been a turning point.”

Like many children in his community, Azriel is being raised by a single mother since his parents’ separation 3 years ago. He feels a strong need for a relationship with his father, who has remarried, and often seeks support from uncles or through learning about his late grandfather, a former musician and Pastor. With an avid interest in music and Pastoral work himself, Azriel greatly looks up to his “Pa” as a role model, but sadly did not have the time to form a relationship with him as he was only four-years-old when he passed away.

The interactive lesson structure of the Resilience programme has given Azriel the confidence to “be real”, open up emotionally and share his thoughts with others, and has especially improved his communication with his mother. When he is going through a difficult time, Azriel now turns to his mother, a children’s day-care worker, a.k.a his “warrior”, for immediate support. Every morning before school, she helps him with his Mathematics homework, a subject he often struggles with. “That’s my enemy that I’m trying to conquer. My mum encourages me and tells me I’m going to pass.”

Azriel has also learnt the importance of having a relationship with God. He regularly attends church and is keenly involved as the drummer of the worship band. “Mum has been telling me that there’s only one way. There may be tough times, but God can help. I used to be sad and think there’s no hope. There is. Don’t give up. There’s a glimpse of hope. God can help me,” he says.

Azriel looks forward to starting high school in the next 2 years and wants to use what he has learnt to make good decisions for the future.

“Being in the programme has helped me to speak up and understand better who I am.”

If you are keen to make a difference in the lives of the youth in our communities, like Azriel, CAST is hosting the 10th Annual Boys Camp to provide boys without fathers an opportunity to learn about Manhood and Fatherhood as God intended. Sponsoring a boy will cost R400 p.p. For more info contact George Mwaura: george@cast.org.za or call (+27) 31 2668830.

CAST Banking Details:

Account name: CAST Trust

Bank: FNB

Branch code: 250655

Account no: 62762010248

REF: “BoysCamp”

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A Light on the Path: Lynette Pather’s story

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Lynette Pather is an experienced youth leader in the community of Phoenix in Durban, South Africa and has dedicated herself to helping the children and youth in her area through CAST’s Reading Intervention Programme for Grade 3s, and Life Skills Resilience Programme for Grade 7s.

She first joined CAST as a volunteer in 2017 when a pastor from Cornerstone Community Church went door-to-door around the neighbourhood to speak to youth and Sunday School teachers about the programmes that CAST was planning to implement in partnership with the Church.

Lynette then attended the training to become a facilitator for the programmes which she now volunteers for 3 times a week and is always willing to assist CAST when needed.

The reading intervention programme is aimed at helping children who did not receive adequate assistance at foundation phase to improve their skills in reading and comprehension at the appropriate level. Lynette assists a group of 10 learners and describes this as a trouble-free class.

The Resilience classes, however, pose more of a challenge for the facilitators. Lynette describes the Grade 7 learners, aged 12 – 13, as going through a transition phase into their teenage years, and find themselves unsure of how to deal with uncomfortable feelings and emotions when certain topics are raised. Some even become defensive and disruptive or begin making jokes to detract from serious subjects.

With an average of 40 children per class, it is not easy to manage. The facilitators, fortunately, have the support of the school but avoid disciplining the children, and instead, try to adopt a “love of Christ” approach towards unruly learners. Lynette believes the root of this behaviour is due to the prevalence of single-parent households or those with absent parents in the community and has seen how children as young as those she teaches are forced to take on the responsibility of parenting their younger siblings. Many of these single-parent households do not receive support due to the shame and stigma of being a ‘broken’ family. “We have to give honour to [single parents] instead of looking down on them,” she says.

Since the programme was implemented, Lynette has noticed a positive difference in the behaviour of learners that participated last year who now push themselves to attain good school marks in order to qualify for university. “They are more self-motivated, centred, and know that only they can make the decision to get out of the cycle of poverty,” she says.

Although the programme does not allow for the facilitators to share Christian teachings, as the learners of the school are religiously-diverse, they still offer encouragement and support to equip the learners with information to pursue further studies at tertiary level. Her dream for the children in the community is for them to “see the bigger picture.”

Lynette, herself, comes from a strong Christian family who founded and pastor Fountain of Hope Christian Centre in Phoenix. As a qualified Christian Counsellor with a diploma from the Logos Bible School, her many years of experience in youth ministry has grown her passion for serving the younger generation. Her advice to other leaders of young people is to “never give up until that person can see what God has for them, especially if you see a child with potential. Take that child’s dream, put it into your spirit, pray, and make it a reality.”

“I want to help the youth see the world differently,” she says. “There are so many opportunities. The world is for you.”

If you are keen to support these programmes or commit to tutoring and mentoring young people in our communities, contact CAST at info@cast.org.za or call (+27)31 266 8830.

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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.

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CAST Annual General Meeting 2019

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Join us for an evening of celebration as we reflect on God’s work in our communities this past year, and express our appreciation for how your support has impacted and transformed lives.

Date: Thursday 16 May 2019

Time: 18:00 – 20:30

The event will take place at Westville Baptist Church, beginning with a light supper. All are welcome!

RSVP to info@cast.org.za or call the CAST Head Office on (031) 266 8830 for more info.

We look forward to another memorable gathering!

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Saving Grace: Ali’s Story

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Young entrepreneur, Ali Adan from Kiamaiko in Nairobi, Kenya has found great success since completing the Business Courses offered by CAST in 2018. At just twenty years of age, he had already established his own butchery selling goat meat, earning up to 500 Kenyan Shillings (R62,50) a day, but admits that he would spend his money carelessly, without proper budgeting or financial planning. “As the day ended I could not account for the money,” he says. “I had nothing in my pocket.”

This changed when he heard the announcement about the course at CAST’s partner church in Huruma, Evangelical Victory Church. Eager to improve his business skills, he signed up for the course and learned valuable lessons which have made a significant difference in his life, professionally and personally.

“Firstly, I have learnt the importance of saving. Before I joined CAST, I never saved. I am proud to say that I have some money in my account now.  Secondly, I learnt to manage my time well. Thirdly, I learnt to be polite and respectful to my customers. And lastly, I have also learnt to appreciate my customers by giving discounts and incentives.  These are my top four key lessons that CAST has empowered me with among many other business skills.”

He adds that through the course, he learnt to run an honest business that honours God.  “I was challenged to read my Bible every day and memorize scriptures,” he says. “I have actually done further studies to understand the mystery of the Trinity.” Ali is an active member of his church as a cell group leader that meets twice a week for Bible Study.

Having grown up in the farmlands outside Nairobi City, where most of his family still live, Ali has big dreams for the future: “I would like to be a successful leader in Ministry, specifically in Youth Ministry, and secondly, an international business entrepreneur with my head office in London!”

To make this possible, Ali plans to work hard in his business, save money well, invest money wisely to expand and lastly, “pray to God to give [him] wisdom and strength to accomplish all these.”

If you would like to help make a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs like Ali, contact CAST on (031) 266 8830 or email: info@cast.org.za or you may contact Joseph Bode, the Nairobi Area Manager at joseph@cast.org.za.