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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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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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boy2Man: Ayanda’s story

The CAST Annual Boys2Men Camp is one of the highlights of our year where we get to spend uninterrupted time with the young men in our communities and address the desperate need for guidance, advice, affirmation, and create a way for these boys to discover their identity. 

Below is the story of one of these boys whose life has been greatly impacted through this camp, as well as the ongoing support of mentors and volunteers:

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Twenty-two year old Ayanda from KwaDabeka has come a long way since joining CAST’s Sport & Youth Development programme six years ago. His quiet demeanor and lack of confidence told of his unhappiness at school, where the teachers seemingly lacked the capacity to give learners like Ayanda individual assistance.

This changed when he started receiving after-school tutoring in Mathematics and Physical Science facilitated by CAST, which enabled him to start passing Maths and Accounting after having failed his first term of Matric. This was a turning point in Ayanda’s life, which sparked his motivation to study further.

Ayanda was also a member of CAST’s basketball team, THE CLAN, based at KwaDabeka Baptist Church. He had the opportunity to attend the annual boys2Men Camp where he gained a strong sense of discipline and self-efficacy, so much so, that in his first year of studying at the University of Zululand, others often mistake him for a 3rd or 4th year student.

Ayanda received a bursary to study Logistics Management and, through the generous outreach of a Westville Baptist Church member, has been offered a placement to complete his in-service training this year. Once qualified, Ayanda would like to work in Durban or Richard’s Bay, and pursue his dream of running his own Logistics Company to create employment opportunities for others.

As an ‘old boy’ of the CAST Sport & Youth Development programme, Ayanda is also keen to give back to his community in tutoring and mentoring of younger boys involved in the programme. Although his path has not been easy, Ayanda continues to pray each day and embraces learning new skills and applying what he has been taught throughout his years with CAST.

To learn more about how you can get involved in mentoring our youth in the communities, contact George at: george@cast.org.za or (031)266 8830. If you would like to sponsor boys to attend camp at R350,00 each, banking details are as follows:

CAST Trust

First National Bank

Branch code: 250655

Acc no: 62762010248

Ref: “Boys Camp”

 

 

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Shooting for the Stars: Bryan’s Story

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On his way home from school one day, 14-year-old Samkelo Bryan Cele, learnt something that would change his life. Being tall in stature, a friend invited him to join the CAST Basketball team that trained at KwaDabeka Baptist church. Without any former knowledge of the sport, or the right kit, Bryan went to check it out.

At first, it was tough. The other boys had skills and experience that far outweighed young Bryan playing in a pair of construction boots. Growing up as the eldest son in a family of seven with a single parent, Bryan faced scrutiny for investing so much of his time into basketball, especially since soccer was the more popular sport in his community. With the added sorrow of his grandfather’s passing, he stopped playing for a year.

Despite not being a part of the team, CAST had become a “home away from home” for Bryan – a safe space away from the dangers of peer pressure where he learnt about brotherhood, and what it meant to have a personal relationship with God in daily life as the boys would pray before and after each training session.

He started playing again in grade 9, this time, with a strong determination to improve his skills. As part of CAST’s focus on youth development, our mentoring programme seeks to break the cycle of fatherlessness in the communities by connecting young people with role models. Our goal is not that mentors would solve all their mentees’ problems, but rather that mentors would empower their mentees to solve their own problems. From equipping Bryan with his very first pair of trainers to sponsoring a trip to attend a basketball camp in Serbia, Bryan was blessed to have the mentorship of Mike Cox, a member of Westville Baptist Church, who whole-heartedly invested in Bryan’s future.

As the years went by, Bryan steadily got better and better. His talent drew the attention of selectors at regional tournaments, and he was subsequently offered a scholarship to attend Durban High School. His vision broadened as he began to see the many doors that had opened for him to opportunities that someone from ‘the hood’ would not ordinarily have access to.  One such opportunity was being selected to attend the aforementioned basketball training camp in Serbia, as well as in the USA where Bryan was awarded the title of ‘Most Valuable Player’.

Bryan is now in his second year at The University of Oklahoma, USA where he was awarded a scholarship to play basketball and is academically pursuing a degree in Business Law. Once qualified, his dream is to use his entrepreneurial skills to build a support structure for those from a similar background with limited opportunities. “Basketball was my out,” he says.

“I know I’m not the only one who can do it. They need God, hope and motivation.”

Bryan is deeply grateful for the generosity of donors and the support of CAST mentors and coaches, through which, God has worked to transform Bryan’s life. His advice to those who aspire to achieve the same goal is simple: “Believe. Work. And pray.”

If you would like to help make this dream a reality for more youth in our communities, contact George on 031 266 8830 or email george@cast.org.za.

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Coach Bongani

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Coach Bongani (far right) with some of his team at Sithokozile High School in KwaDabeka

By Rolan Gulston

Originally from Harrismith, 25-year-old Bongani Tshabalala has made a home in the community of KwaDabeka, a township situated just east of Pinetown. Since joining CAST as a volunteer soccer coach last year, he now feels fully invested in the development of the youth in the community.

Growing up with an older brother and two younger siblings, Bongani sought to become independent from an early age. While he spent much of his time at the gym training for the game that he loves, he did not see playing soccer as being a long-term career. Instead, he focussed on education, and encourages his boys to do the same.

Bongani has been studying mechanics since October last year. He shares that, as a youngster, he was not always diligent in his studies and often influenced his friends to take up drinking, smoking and dating to fit in with his social circle. Even attending church was something he did only to please his mother. This changed when he turned 21, as he began to appreciate his faith and attend church regularly without being pushed. As he got older and strengthened his relationship with God, he realised that the only person he can compete with is himself. He now attends KwaDabeka Baptist Church, and plays an active role in the Youth Ministry.

He first heard about CAST through a friend last year after living with his brother in Joburg for a year and half. The community centre in KwaDabeka was looking for a soccer coach, and he immediately jumped on board, but what he found was a deep lack of motivation in the team.

Gradually, through implementing the uBabalo Whole-life Coaching Programme, the boys have developed a close bond, and have learnt the value of supporting each other, “Because when you are playing soccer, you’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing as a team.”

Under his coaching, the boys won their first 10 games, and are now placed in the Pinetown League. Bongani believes in pushing the boys beyond their perceived level of capability by organising for his teams to play matches against older age groups as a way of helping them to adapt and gain experience. “God is here and anything is possible,” he tells them.

The team is steadily growing in number as the word spreads. The Under-15 and Under-17 boys train together three days a week. As part of the uBabalo programme, the team spends time reflecting on scripture before each training session, and many of the boys have shown great spiritual growth.

“God is always there. He is always watching you. I know it’s not going to be easy, but if you work hard, it won’t go away. If it’s easy, it won’t last.”

Bongani tries to always be an encouraging voice for the team, “I have never disgraced them. I tell them they should believe in themselves and trust each other. When I’m sharing myself, I am healing too.” His supportive, yet disciplined approach to coaching and mentoring has endeared him to the boys, who often tell him, “You are part of the family, you are always open.”

This year was his first time attending the annual boys2Men Camp. As a leader at the camp and in his community, Bongani took this time to mentor the young boys in the group of 60 that were selected to attend the camp. It also gave the boys a chance to talk about the things affecting them. He helped them to recognize bad influences in their lives, whether it be the people in their social circles or even the music they listen to. After sharing his testimony, he also taught them about making wise choices, not giving in to peer pressure, and rather than trying to change their friends immediately, start by telling them about the camp and share Bible verses with them.

Bongani found that previously, when selecting a captain, the boys would often choose the loudest player in the team but, lacking in respect for others. He soon drew out the quieter boys who showed leadership potential, and once placed in captaincy, began to change the mind-set of the team; leading by example in their dedication to the sport and their school work. Others have since also improved in their school results, and with Bongani’s guidance, have been applying for bursaries for tertiary education. He has also made time to help them form a study group for Maths and Science.

Between studying, training at the gym and playing matches, soccer keeps the boys busy. “They are no longer bored.” Bongani, too, feels that he has changed. For the past year, he has abstained from drinking and smoking.

“You should accept the way you are, and change the way you do things. Just having fun and buying lots of clothes won’t take you anywhere. Only education. God will provide everything later on.”

Bongani has a passion for youth development, especially empowering the young boys entering adolescence. Bongani’s dream is to empower them to become self-sufficient, productive members of their community. He, himself, has tried to set an example of this by seeing to his own groceries and rent of R550 a month. May was a particularly difficult month for Bongani, without money to afford food and basic necessities, but he still committed himself to training at the gym with the boys. He now receives a monthly food parcel from CAST’s Relief Services, which has been a great help. He hopes to one day have the means to support the boys in buying their soccer boots and kit. “I know I’ll accomplish that, but I know the path won’t be easy.”

Bongani would like to continue coaching, as he feels he is gaining a lot of experience, especially when working with the younger boys. “It’s something different, I am adapting.” To support Bongani in his mission to empower the youth, contact George at CAST on: 031 266 8830 or george@cast.org.za

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Moving Beyond Charity: Making a Spiritual Impact

During the past month, CAST has witnessed tremendous spiritual growth in the lives of our participants, both through special events and regular programming.

Holiday Clubs

During the October school holidays, CAST had the opportunity to partner with two local churches, Joy Chapel Ministries in Mariannridge and Lamontville Baptist Church, to host holiday clubs in these areas.  The clubs provided a unique opportunity for CAST to assist the local church in providing a few days of fun, faith and fellowship in a safe place for children within the community during the school holidays.

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In Mariannridge, 80 children aged 4-14 years old attended the holiday club.  For this event, CAST was able to partner with the Mariannridge International Citizen Service (ICS) Team, which is a programme offered by Tearfund and Zoe-Life that brings together volunteers from South Africa and the United Kingdom to work alongside local organisations in projects aimed at helping children in vulnerable communities to become more confident and skilled in order to inspire hope in their communities.  The ICS team worked alongside CAST staff and volunteers to ensure children were cared for and experienced the love of Jesus.  After working in this community for several months, the ICS team has seen the damaging impact of crime, alcohol and substance abuse on families in Mariannridge.  However, the team also experienced the power of reaffirming Christianity and spirituality in the lives of children during the holiday club when 60 children gave their lives to Christ.  The Lamontville holiday club had similar success, with 178 children attending.

Boys2Men Camp

Also during October, CAST hosted our eighth annual boys2Men camp.  Sixty-nine young boys (Grades 8-11) were selected from CAST’s youth programmes to attend camp.  The camp was facilitated by thirteen leaders currently involved in CAST’s Sport & Youth Development programmes in each community.

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This year’s camp theme was centred on “Abiding in Christ”, taken from the passage in John 15:4-5.  The boys were encouraged to experience God through worship, prayer and quiet time in God’s Word.  In response to an open invitation to accept Christ, 35 boys made first-time commitments to follow Jesus.

In the past few weeks following boys2Men camp, CAST has been able to follow up with the boys in each community regarding their spiritual journey.  The question everyone is asking each other is “Are you abiding?”

Below is a testimony from a camp leader:

Coach Bongani Tshabalala attended the recent boys2Men camp for the first time this year, where young men from local township communities came together to learn what it means to be resilient and walk together in their spiritual journeys.

As a facilitator at the camp and in his community of KwaDabeka, Bongani actively encourages the youth to develop their relationship with God, “Because He is the one that is always there for you.” Through implementing the uBabalo programme in his soccer coaching, he has seen how ongoing mentorship and support has positively impacted the young boys’ lives. Since beginning the programme last year, the boys now occupy themselves with training, playing soccer matches, attending church and meeting as a study group. 

Bongani’s dream is for the boys to grow spiritually and learn to be self-sufficient, productive members of their community.  

Food Parcel Ministry

At the end of October, CAST’s food parcel recipients also experienced what can only be described as a spiritual revival.  Each month CAST’s Relief Services HOD and Community Co-ordinators organise Ministry Days for the food parcel recipients.  At the Ministry Days, recipients not only receive their food parcels but are also encouraged to use their God-given skills and talents to lift themselves out of poverty.  Every month when CAST has Ministry Days, we faithfully pray that God will transform the lives of food parcel recipients, heal families, and provide for their needs. This month, CAST had the privilege of having guest speaker Tryphena, from Vukukanye Children’s Home, lead devotions at Ministry Days. Thirty-eight food parcel recipients came to know Jesus and committed their lives to Him. God’s spirit was very present, working in the hearts of those we serve! 

22730380_1464772373611468_6368805972482206700_n22730485_1464772400278132_2685624964510935931_nHere are some ways you can join CAST in praying for programme participants:

Holiday Clubs

  • Pray for Joy Chapel Ministries and Lamontville Baptist Church as they continue to disciple children in the community who made first-time commitments to Christ.
  • Pray for the children who attended holiday club, that they will continue to experience the love of Jesus.

Boys2Men Camp

  • Pray that the boys will continue to abide in Christ, spending time with Him through prayer, worship and devotions.
  • Pray for CAST’s community leaders as they continue to mentor these young men in CAST’s ongoing Sport and Youth Development programmes.
  • Pray for volunteers that are able to disciple the boys on a regular basis.

Food Parcel Programme

  • Pray for CAST’s Relief Services HOD and Community Co-ordinators as they provide support to food parcel recipients in reaching their individual and family goals. Pray that God will provide for the food parcel recipients and their families.
  • Pray that the food parcel recipients and their families will grow in their walk with the Lord.