By Rolan Gulston
Since 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.
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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (+27) 31 266 8830 for more information.