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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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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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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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Sinikithemba

 

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At CAST’s Community Empowerment Centre in Chesterville, Nomakaya Mpambaniso (CAST’s Chesterville Community Co-ordinator) leads a counselling support group for those in the community.  Every week the group comes together for support, sewing and knitting projects, as well as fun games and activities.  Most of the group members receive food parcels from CAST, which helps to supplement their diet.  This past week Sinikithemba celebrated Youth Day by having group members dress up in school uniforms and playing school games to encourage staying active.

Below is the story of how the Sinikithemba Support Group has impacted the life of a group member, in her own words:

My name is Lindiwe Dlamini. I love God, and am very much appreciative to God for sacrificing his only Son Jesus Christ, and I am also in love with my community and my people.

I heard about the Sinikithemba Support Group (meaning ‘we bring hope’) and CAST, and volunteered there. This is where I met Mam’Glad, Carol, Lizzie, Mam’Njazi, Makhosi, with social workers and others – good people I met.

When I met these people on this particular day I was happy, excited and blessed to meet them. I listened attentively that everything they spoke about had Christian values and principles; they spoke about helping needy people in the community, respect, giving faith to the faithless and also assisting the needy with food parcels.

I was led by a Bible verse from Psalms 23 that says, “The Lord is Shepherd I shall not want.”

So I thought about the initiatives that were spoken about in the meeting and I had faith again and went out to the community to tell people of CAST and the Sinikithemba Support Group. More people were interested so Mam’Glad spoke to social worker that assisted a lot in the community.

People that are assisted in this community have hope, faith, respect and love. CAST has also led them closer to Christ.

We also assist people with counselling and refer them to the clinic, as well as helping the disabled and cleaning their homes if there is no one to help.

We thank you for the help and assistance, as well as the education and training, and the love we receive.

With this programme, you get all the assistance you need, even the ones who are on chronic medication have something nutritious to eat prior to taking treatment/medication.

We even visit schools to find out what problems they are facing and see where we can help as a group through the assistance of CAST.

In conclusion, we ask that CAST continue supporting communities like us because it makes a difference in the community and people gain hope, faith, and start living again and themselves go out to help others. We thank you for the great work and we love you guys.

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Why Not?

DSC_0363.jpgWhen Timothy Mohlala, CAST’s KwaDabeka Community Coordinator, recruited volunteers at KwaDabeka Baptist Church to help out with CAST’s programmes, Senkie’s first response was, “Why not?”  Originally from Johannesburg, Senkie moved to KwaDabeka with a friend and was quick to join KwaDabeka Baptist Church and get involved.  He now also studies Business Management at Ilanga College.

Senkie believes in the power of giving back to others.  As he explains, “It is possible to change someone’s life.  Helping is very needed.  It’s about being there for people, and not just yourself.”

Even though Senkie is not an original KwaDabeka resident, he is still passionate about developing the community.  He believes there is much to be done that can change the lives of individuals and families in the community.

One way Senkie gives back is through volunteering with CAST’s food parcel programme in KwaDabeka.  Once a month, CAST and KwaDabeka Baptist Church host a Ministry Day to encourage food parcel recipients through prayer and fellowship.  Food parcels are also passed out to recipients during this event.

Senkie is motivated to volunteer because of his faith.  Before he came to KwaDabeka, he was unsure what to believe.  However through his spiritual growth at KwaDabeka Baptist Church, he was motivated to reach out in his community and show others the love of Christ.

If you also have a heart for making a difference in your community, volunteering with CAST is a great way to utilise your God-given talents and abilities for the Kingdom of God.  If you especially enjoy being on the ground and interacting with people, why not volunteer with CAST’s food parcel programme?  Once a month, Ministry Days are hosted in each of our partner communities, and provide an amazing opportunity to meet people in the community who are impacted by CAST’s programmes and the local church.  For more information, please contact Dale at: dale@cast.org.za

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The Power of Food Parcels

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Eighteen years ago a social worker from Westville Baptist trained a group of community health workers in one of CAST’s communities — the problem, they told her, is that we give the people their medicine, but they have no food and they cannot take it on an empty stomach. As a result, CAST’s food parcel ministry was born. Since then, CAST has distributed 30,000 food parcels—about 3 million meals.

Currently there are 326 families on CAST’s food parcel programme.  Each food parcel is designed to feed a family of four for ten days.  The parcels include basic food items such as maize, samp, beans, morvite, oil, peanut butter, soya mince, stock cubes, and soup mix.  In the communities where CAST works, households are assessed by CAST community workers who work closely with schools, clinics, and churches in the communities.

A household qualifies for the food parcel programme if they:

  • Live below the poverty line according to MDG Standards
  • Have a disability or critical illness (e.g. HIV)
  • Are child – headed
  • Shack dwellers/ informal housing
  • Short term crises relief due to fire, flood, etc

CAST’s food parcels are a lifeline for the most vulnerable in the community – oftentimes widows and children.  Below are a few stories of those who have been impacted by the food parcel programme in KwaDabeka:

IMG_7001Joyce is a gogol who is the sole caretaker for her four orphaned grandchildren.  Battling to support the entire family solely through her pension, she sought help at the children’s school.  Joyce was referred to CAST’s Social Worker, Samke Mbatha, who assisted her with school fee exemption and being put on CAST’s food parcel programme.  With the additional food from the food parcel, Joyce is better able to care for her grandchildren.  The children were also excited to receive Lovebox gifts at Christmastime!  While Joyce still battles to provide for her family, she has big dreams for her grandchildren – that they will finish school and find great jobs.

Elizabeth is a pensioner who supports seven individuals – mostly children.  Even though it only lasts for two weeks, the food parcel is vital to her household.  Her youngest grandchild was abandoned by the parents at birth because the mother was smoking whoongah.  Now two years old, the child has no birth certificate and is staying with her. On top of everything else, Elizabeth lives in fear because a man staying near them who abuses drugs often steals the keys for her home and robs their household.  Despite all these challenges, Elizabeth is a Christian and believes in the power of God.

James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  God calls us to care for the most vulnerable in our communities – those who can easily be taken advantage of and who are the victims of injustice.  Both Joyce and Elizabeth are examples of why the food parcel programme is so vital in the communities where CAST works.  How can we share the gospel if those we are preaching to have no way to feed their children?

The goal of CAST’s food parcel programme is to empower households to be self-sufficient through the support of CAST’s holistic programmes such as business development.  However in the meantime, CAST food parcel programme assists households to get back on their feet.

With the rising cost of food, the cost of one food parcel has jumped from R140 to R180 in the past month.  In order to assist individuals such as Joyce and Elizabeth, CAST needs to raise additional funds to continue the food parcel programme.  Please consider partnering with CAST  in caring for the most vulnerable in our communities by living out the call of James 1:27.

If you are interested in giving towards or volunteering with CAST’s food parcel programme, please contact Amy Benn at: amy@cast.org.za