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Early Literacy Graduation 2019

We are so proud of the learners in our Early Literacy programme for showing a remarkable improvement in their reading and writing skills this year!

5 years ago, we were called to partner with a local organization, Wordworks to help build a brighter future for those children in our communities who need extra assistance at school in the foundation phase.

We are ever-grateful to our generous donors and faithful volunteers who have made this possible by reaching out to make a lasting difference in these young lives.

For more information on how you can get involved, contact us at: info@cast.org.za or call (031) 266 8830.

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Isipho Sembewu: Celebrating a Decade of Growth

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This year marks 10 years of CAST Ministry and 46 years since our first church partnership was established in 1973 with Noodsberg Baptist Church.

A big THANK YOU to those who joined in the festivities of our 10 Year celebration, and to ALL in our CAST community for your continued support.

The theme of our celebration, “Isipho Sembewu”, means “the gift of the seed” in isiZulu. Let us pray for many more years of growth and transformation of the seed so faithfully planted all those years ago.

 

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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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Empowering Women: Sidudla’s Story

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

“You are now pregnant
    and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
    for the Lord has heard of your misery.

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Genesis 16: 7-13

The story of Hagar is one that hits home for many of the women that we serve in our communities.

In August last year, sixty-six year old Sidudla Simelane joined CAST when a concerned neighbour told her that it was where she could seek help out of her dire situation. She has lost both her children, one due to illness, the other tragically killed. Neither of their fathers present in their lives.

Sidudla, herself, suffered the loss of her parents at an early age and was raised by an abusive aunt who passed away when Sidudla was 16. Her only surviving family, a cousin in Hammarsdale, did not want to help her.

From this point, Sidudla had no choice but to support herself by working on plantations, ploughing. She was paid R250 ($18,80) per month until the owner of the plantation hired her as a domestic worker where she remained for 32 years.

For decades, Sidudla felt great anger and resentment toward her family, particularly her aunt and cousin. Looking back, she now realizes that it was they who were in the dark. “The earth is rotating,” she says. “You never know what will happen.”

Joining the CAST support group at West City Fellowship has given her hope; she has gained valuable skills in handwork, and looks forward to this time of bonding with the other ladies who attend, many of whom look up to her as a role model and servant of God.

“I used to sometimes think that there was no God,” she says. “CAST healed me.”

While this story is one that speaks of hope and healing, we cannot ignore the devastating reality that many women in this country face – a life of abandonment and abuse that can only be overcome through the support of those who recognize the overwhelming need to empower the women in our lives.

 

Questions to ponder:

  1. What does it mean to you to be an “empowered woman” in today’s world?
  2. What does it mean to you to be an “empowered woman” in Christianity? – is there a difference in your response?