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Remembering Ernie

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CAST Sunday at Noodsberg Baptist Church, 2013.  From left to right, Bongani Mkhize (CAST Noodsberg Area Co-ordiantor), Ernie Calder, Pastor Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt (CAST Executive Director), Pastor Ephraim Mzobe (Noodsberg Baptist), Debbie Calder

Often we think that “social transformation” is all about big events, speeches and important people. But in reality change happens gradually through many, many seemingly insignificant conversations, friendships and acts of love.  It is these consistent, daily acts of love that make an eternal impact in the Kingdom of God. About thirteen years ago, two volunteers began to reach across the economic and cultural divide and develop friendships with people and churches in Noodsberg and KwaDabeka.

Year after year Ernie and Debbie Calder delivered food parcels, driving their bakkie out as far as Noodsberg (90 minutes away) every month, providing hundreds of thousands of meals every year.

But it was never only about the food, deep and lasting friendships developed between the Calders and members of these communities. Over time these relationships evolved into training programmes and food gardens. These were the beginning of CAST’s programmes in these communities. As CAST ministries spread out from Noodsberg into the surrounding areas of Appelsbosch and Chibini so the legacy of the Calders grew with them – now serving almost 2000 people every month in these communities, through nutritional support, educational programmes, children’s ministry, and the development of farming and business.

Last year Ernie celebrated his 80th birthday, but Debbie and Ernie continued to serve as core volunteers with CAST right up until the end of 2016.

Last week, the CAST team were deeply saddened to hear that Ernie had gone to be with the Lord on Monday after a seven hour heart operation. While the CAST team is heartbroken, we will always remember his humble, serving spirit, genuine love of others and concern for our neighbouring communities.  Debbie is also in our prayers.

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Hands Up for Christmas In Action

 

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For CAST, December has been all about celebrating children and the gift of Christmas.  Thanks to all the generous donations we received, CAST was able to give a toy to every child on our food parcel programme.  This may be the only Christmas gift some of the children receive, so thank you for making a difference!

In both Chibini and KwaDabeka, CAST partnered with the local church to host a Christmas party and lunch for the children.  This was not only to give out the toys, but also to award the children’s academic achievement and participation in CAST’s programmes.  We believe it is important to celebrate children by communicating that they are valued and loved by God.  This may be the only opportunity they have to hear the Gospel and understand their worth in Christ.

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The Toy Drive may be over, but Hands Up for Christmas is not!  CAST is a little over halfway to our goal of sponsoring 1000 food parcels for 2017.  If you are still looking for a last minute Christmas gift and don’t want to deal the madness of Christmas shopping, CAST’s Christmas snowflake decoration is the answer.  For R200 ($14) you can sponsor a food parcel in someone’s name and receive a snowflake Christmas tree decoration.  This will remind them of the family they blessed this Christmas season.

You can give directly online here:

https://www.givengain.com/cause/4933/campaigns/17462/

For more information contact Laura Mbugua-Mwaura at: laura@cast.org.za

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Hearts to Hands Relief

 

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Earlier in the year on 30 September 2016, a small informal settlement community near Blackburn was reduced to ashes overnight.  After an unattended child dropped a candle, the flames quickly grew, destroying 10 shacks.  The families were left homeless, with no food or clothing.

A local church, Blackburn Mission Church (BMC), decided to provide relief to this community.  Pastor John Matthias of BMC reached out to Cornerstone Community Church (CCC) in Phoenix to assist with providing the families emergency food and clothing.  Through Charmaine Moses, CAST’s General Manager, both churches were able to partner with CAST to provide the families in need with 10 CAST food parcels and additional food parcel hampers from the two churches.

Informal settlement fires are common due to the close proximity of shacks and high flammability of shack materials.  In addition, many families use paraffin lamps or candles to light their homes when there is no electricity, making the chance of home fires much more likely.

CAST’s Relief Services Department assists with emergency relief for individuals left homeless by fires and floods.  One of the ways we do this is through giving food parcels containing items such as peanut butter, beans, soup mix, mealie meal and oil.  The parcels are designed to feed a family of four for two weeks.  CAST also provides clothing bags for these families.

By donating towards CAST’s Hearts to Hands food parcel programme, you too can be a part of making sure families in local communities are cared for during emergency situations.  You can sponsor a food parcel for R200, and in turn you will receive a Hearts to Hands Christmas ornament to remember the family you have blessed.

For more information, contact Zama Meyiwa at: zama@cast.org.za or 031 267 1716

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Sibongile

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As a child, Sibongile learned about entrepreneurship from watching her mother sell television sets and radios.  Now as an entrepreneur herself, Sibongile goes door to door in KwaDabeka selling clothing to clients.  At the beginning of each month, she buys clothing bags from CAST for R50 each and manages to make an average profit of R1000 from each bag to support her four children.  The leftover clothing items she gives to the poor in her community.

Sibongile first heard about CAST two years ago, when their family was going through a difficult time.  Her son had a stroke and became paralyzed, unable to even speak.  As a result, Sibongile became his primary caretaker, and battled to work.  At the time, Sibongile’s daughter was also attending Sithokozile High School in KwaDabeka, and she needed exemption from school fees.  CAST’s social worker was able to assist with the exemption, and Sibongile was referred to CAST’s other programmes.

Sibongile received assistance through monthly food parcels, and joined CAST’s business forum in KwaDabeka.  She not only learned how to sell more clothes, but also found support from other local entrepreneurs, and even learned how to sew.

Recently Sibongile and other CAST Business forum entrepreneurs made Christmas tree decorations to sell.

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Although Sibongile is now able to support her family, she is still looking for a school that will provide specialised services for her son.

For 2017, Sibongile also has plans to volunteer with CAST’s Sport and Youth Department by starting a girls’ netball team in KwaDabeka.

CAST’s food parcel programme is intended to provide short-term assistance to individuals like Sibongile who are in an extremely difficult situation.  One of the ways CAST helps these individuals get back on their feet is through business forum, which empowers entrepreneurs to grow their small businesses and make a liveable income.

CAST is all about restoring dignity and hope to families who have lost faith that their situation will get better.  As you buy Christmas gifts this holiday season, please consider purchasing a CAST Snowflake Christmas tree decoration.  Each R200 donation will go towards a food parcel for a family in need.  You can make a difference and move beyond just charity this Christmas season by empowering a local family to move out of poverty.

Want to get involved?  Contact Zama at: zama@cast.org.za or 031 267 1716

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Mariannridge Pastors Dialogue

dsc_0283dsc_0303Recently Rev. Wayne Thring of Joy Chapel Ministries in Mariannridge hosted a Pastors Dialogue Event in partnership with CAST, Mariann Co-ordinating Committee (MCC) and the Ministers’ Fraternal.  CAST had the chance to ask Rev. Thring a few questions about local church involvement in his community:

Q:  Can you explain the purpose of the Pastors Dialogue and how the idea for it came about?

A:  Jenny Boyce from MCC visited the Ministers’ Fraternal, and expressed her concerns about the many challenges facing the community. She asked the question: “Who is leading?” The Pastors then agreed that we need a collaborated effort, meeting to help address the challenges. This effort would be led by the Fraternal, CAST, and MCC.

Q:  What churches and/or organisations were represented?

A:  Joy Chapel Ministries, Assemblies of God, Pinetown Christian Fellowship, Evangelical Bible Church, Hope Family, Christian Assemblies, Kingdom Life Ministries, Methodist Church, Catholic and Anglican Churches, African Christian Democratic Party, ANC, CAST, MCC, Community Police Forum, SAPS & Democracy Development Centre

Q:  What was the end result of the dialogue?

A:  It was realised that most organisations were working in silos, doing good work. What was needed was relationship building to break down walls that exist. A commitment to work together for the benefit of the community was established. The next meeting would flesh out how this could be achieved.

Q:  What are the current challenges that your church and community are facing?

A:  Over 50% unemployment, crime, much of which is related to drug abuse. Overcrowding in the flatted area, lack of housing and poor education levels.

Q:  What do you believe is the biggest strength of Joy Chapel?

A:  Unity among the leadership.

Q:  How can we best pray for Joy Chapel, and especially for you and the church leadership?

A:  Pray that we would be able to extend our reach, into our community and beyond.  Pray for the needed resources locally and for our church plant in KwaXimba.  Pray for our leadership. Some are moving to Johannesburg for work and family reasons.  Pray for wisdom, strength and skill sets to accomplish our goals.

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Hands-up for Mariannridge

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Fiona with her son

Fiona’s Story

Last year when her son was having health problems, Fiona used to walk to the clinic in Mariannridge regularly.  One day while walking back from the clinic with a friend, she noticed the CAST centre.  Fiona and her friend decided that they needed to come and find out what was going on there.

Fiona happened to know Ralph Williams, CAST’s Mariannridge Community Co-ordinator. When she explained to him that she didn’t have electricity at her home or anything to cook, Ralph told her that he would bless her with a CAST food parcel and clothing for her children.

To make ends meet, Fiona does washing and ironing for people in the community.  However, she battles to provide clothing for her children, especially school uniforms.  This became an even bigger challenge recently when her adult son began to steal from them to fund his drug addiction.

Fiona lives at home with her mother and two younger children.  She is a caretaker both for her mother, who is often in and out of hospital, and for her husband, who suffers from severe arthritis and uses crutches to walk.

She used to live with her husband, however when his family came between the two of them, they chose to separate. Despite all the challenges, Fiona still loves and cares for her husband, even making sure he has home-cooked meals.

“I told myself, ‘Let me examine my heart.’ I forgave the family and my husband.  We need to forgive.  God told me to carry on caring for my husband.  I keep forgiving; God will deal with it.”

Fiona’s heart to forgive is evident of her love for the Lord.

“God gives me the strength to care for my husband and mother.  God knows what he has in store for us.”

Fiona also loves giving back to her community.  Recently, she and several other CAST food parcel recipients got together to help clean up at a local high school.

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CAST Clean-up day in Mariannridge

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Charmaine with Ralph, CAST’s Mariannridge Community Co-ordinator

Charmaine’s Story:

Charmaine’s journey with CAST began when her husband lost his job with Tanker Services.  Charmaine had also lost her job with an NGO in Pinetown when the organisation closed down.  Struggling to make ends meet, Charmaine reached out to Ralph at the CAST Centre.  Ralph was able to provide Charmaine with a food parcel, which provided relief for her family while they waited for Charmaine’s husband to receive his pension.  Charmaine had hope that things were going to get better.

But her hope quickly disappeared.  When Charmaine’s husband received his pension, he gave all the money away to a local witchdoctor.  As he got more and more entangled with the witchdoctor, he went so far as to sell off all their household items, until the house was completely empty.  Unable to bare the abusive situation anymore, Charmaine left her husband.

She now rents a single room and makes some money off of selling fish & chips and bunny chows in the community.  Still, Charmaine’s dream is to work in home-based care again, especially with the elderly.

“It’s easy to think, ‘Why you?’ You think ‘Why has God forsaken me?’  We were the talk of Mariannridge.  But God can change me.  I would love to give people the love I never had.”

CAST’s food parcel programme is a vital part of providing supportive relief services to individuals such as Charmaine, who are often in a desperate and vulnerable position.  Those who receive food parcels are regularly assessed by community co-ordinators, and receive additional group support through monthly food parcel recipient gatherings.  CAST’s goal is to also empower food parcel recipients to find meaningful work through the business forum, in order to become self-sufficient.

As the holidays near, please consider giving towards CAST’s Hands-up for Christmas Drive.  For each R200 donation, you will receive a snowflake or wooden Christmas tree decoration, which will remind you of the family that will be blessed with a food parcel.  Our food parcel programme provides food to 300 needy families in the communities where CAST works.

For more information, contact Zama Meyiwa at: zama@cast.org.za or 031 267 1716

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My Story

 

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Three years ago, I came to South Africa with little more than a brand new Bachelor’s Degree and a heart to serve the Lord.  A year before I had been praying to see what God wanted me to do with my life.  I had a vivid dream of working at a community centre based out of a church, where people could come and receive care.  It wasn’t until I came for a visit to South Africa in 2013 that I realized CAST was the community-based organisation God had placed in my dream, where He wanted me wanted me to serve.

During my initial three month visit, I volunteered with CAST’s Homework Club at Addington Primary School and loved every minute of helping the children.  However, the biggest thing that won me over about CAST was the organisational vision.  First of all, CAST is all about working through the local church to impact the Kingdom of God.  Instead of focusing on mere once-off “feel-good” relief work, CAST desires to mobilise the local church to provide long-term, sustainable development programmes to transform entire communities.

Another one of my favourite things about volunteering with CAST was the staff team.  I came to South Africa only knowing one person, and found a true community of like-minded people at CAST.  Before I came, I knew only a little about apartheid and the segregation that existed before freedom in South Africa.  I was amazed to see a diverse team of people from literally every walk of life, working together with one common mission.  The staff members and fellow volunteers welcomed me in, introducing me to the South African way of life and community development.  I was amazed by how the staff and volunteers sacrificed of their time and resources to accomplish something far bigger than themselves.

The CAST vision and staff team was largely why I decided to stay on volunteering long-term, and gave up dreams of pursing a master’s degree in the States.  It was an incredibly hard decision to leave family, friends and the opportunity to live the ‘American dream’, but I knew it was what the Lord was calling me to do.

Now three years later, I can say that volunteering at CAST has been completely worth it.   However, community work in South Africa is messy, difficult, time-consuming and often heart-breaking.  When you are dealing with the impacts of generational poverty, it can seem like the walls of spiritual darkness are too high to climb over.  But we serve a good, good God who is big enough to break down these walls of racism, addiction, witchcraft, fatherlessness and divided families.

The staff, volunteers and clients at CAST are what have made my experience in South Africa so valuable.  They are the people who have encouraged me to persevere when the cultural divide seemed too wide, or when I felt too homesick.  This is a team of people who care deeply about what God is doing through the local church in South Africa, no matter the cost.

1929937_943972102358167_3732381770153053908_n.jpgI have been with our organisation when God has blessed us abundantly, and when there is little.  2016 has been a year where we have had to boldly trust God for provision.  Some programmes have been downsized, but as we have gone back to the “bare-bones” of our organisation, we have been challenged to come back to the heart of CAST, the local church.  This is the hope of South Africa, and the world.

Most people I know are looking for a way to give meaningfully this Christmas season, and I want to challenge you to consider giving differently this year.  Within the NGO sphere, most people want to give directly towards programmes, which is the most obvious way to make a difference.  However, without committed staff members who are willing to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate CAST’s programmes, there will be no sustainability or long-term impact.  I have the privilege of writing stories about clients who are involved with our programmes, and when I ask them about how CAST has made a difference in their lives, they don’t mention food parcels, sports, or business forum, but instead individual staff members who made the time to hear their story, get to know them and see how they could help.

Relationships are the currency to community development.  And without dedicated staff, there would be no long-term trusting relationships with clients, volunteers or partner churches.  Please consider giving towards a staff team who have worked incredibly hard this year, and want to continue the work we have started for 2017.

You can give online (even outside of South Africa) through Givengain at this link: https://www.givengain.com/cause/4933/campaigns/17462/

Laura Mbugua-Mwaura