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


Move Beyond Charity

Many of you may have seen our new slogan floating around the social media realms and wondered what the inspiration behind it is.

“Move Beyond Charity” is our way of expressing what the core beliefs behind our organisation are.

We believe that extreme poverty can end, that mindsets can be changed, and that love is a necessity.

We believe that changing the world requires more than just a handout, more than just charity; it requires action…. it requires MOVEMENT.

Watch this video to learn more about how we are taking active steps to ending poverty, empowering communities and keeping Jesus at the centre of it all.

And feel free to join us.


Get Fit, Bring a Blanket

Last weekend, Hearts to Hands and CAST held a Blanket Drive Campaign at The Village Market Centre. This campaign was linked to the Fitcampathon Winter Warmth Program in which participants have free entry into the Fitcampathon but are asked to donate a blanket towards those that are less fortunate this winter.

The day brought in about 200 participants who donated about 250 blankets as well as clothes. Hearts to Hands even managed to recruit some potential future volunteers for the ministry.

One of the highlights of the day was when a team of “rough and tough” Harley Davidson crew pitched up to take part in the Fitcampathon, holding a heap of blankets for the homeless in their hands…big men with big hearts!

Another highlight was having both the Westville Times and the Highway Mail interested in covering the story of the day. It’s awesome to know that the community is getting more involved in what CAST is doing.

The biggest outcome of the day was that Village Market has decided to adopt Hearts to Hands as it’s CSI Project – which means they will be giving the ministry exposure in the centre for all projects we want to run. This will include our Christmas Lovebox Project and 1000 Snowflakes Foodparcel Campaign, both set to take off in the next couple of months. The Woolworths branch in the centre has also offered to donate frozen foods towards our food parcel recipients, which is a huge blessing for the ministry.

The blankets and clothes were distributed to families and food parcel recipients throughout some of our communities during intentional outreach days at KwaDabeka and Noordsberg – the heart of Jesus is so evident when we witness the joy that blessing others can bring.

We are very excited for what God has in store for the Hearts to Hands ministry and so grateful for the contributions people made towards our Blanket Drive.

Watch this space for the next campaigns!


The Story of Gogo Mchunu.

She had three sons and a daughter. One son was unemployed, one had an alcohol problem and the other was in and out of jobs. In June, 2011, she lost her twenty-eight year old daughter to HIV/Aids – the disease that has claimed so many lives in our country. Gogo Mchunu did not even have enough money to organise a funeral service for her beloved child.

Suddenly she had to raise her two grandchildren- an eight year old girl and an eight month old baby boy.  The little girl had psychological problems because she had been raped several times when she was younger.

This is not the situation Mary Mchunu, fondly known as Gogo Mchunu, would have chosen for herself. It’s not the situation any of us would choose for ourselves.

The CAST team met Mary through home visits conducted by volunteers in Lamontville. The team soon realised she was in need of food parcels and through this system they were able to provide some sort of financial relief. A relationship was built with Mary and she soon got to know about Lamontville Baptist Church.

The church organised money to pay for her daughter’s funeral and it was this small action that opened her eyes to the love of Jesus. Here were people that didn’t even really know her and yet they were willing to help her and her family.

In the Zulu culture, there is a belief that when a family member dies, the mourner should stay indoors for almost a month, leaving the house only to buy food.

But after only a couple of weeks, Mary came into Lamontville Baptist, shared her story with the congregation and soon after that became a member of the congregation.

Last year, in 2012, she was baptised.

Gogo Mchunu suffers from arthritis, hypertension and diabetes and should be resting all day, but she loves the church and the people so much, that nobody could keep her from spending time their with everyone.  God has been working through the CAST team and the church so much to bring change in this woman’s life.

Her grandson, who was also found to be infected with HIV/Aids, is growing stronger through the proper nutrition he is receiving and her granddaughter, after attending church, receiving counselling and meeting with missionary volunteers has also shown a huge improvement in her mental state.

Sbusiso Cebisa – the CAST area coordinator and counsellor in the Lamontville area – has been working closely with Gogo Mchunu and her family, trying to help them understand the situation they are living in and helping to empower and equip them to do more with their lives. He tries to help them identify their problems and then work at directly solving those problems.

Gogo Mchunu now sells vegetables to the community as well as packets of popcorn for the children in Lamontville. One of her son’s has also secured a job, so the family has some form of income now. It’s not much, but it’s a start, and the journey of Gogo Mchunu is not over.

From being desolate and scared, feeling like her world was falling apart, she is now an active member of the church, living with purpose and a huge love for Jesus and the community.

All it took was the willingness of volunteers, the love of the local church, and the provision of food parcels to change a life.

And at the core of it all, was Jesus.


Have an Eternal Impact.

Every Tuesday night, Cheryl Robbins walked the streets of Durban with the rest of our Street Ministry team, eager to see the four young boys who had captured her heart. One of them, Maxwell, would run up to her with his arms outstretched, shouting, “Mom!”

That’s what happens during street ministry. Relationships and bonds are formed. Why would a young, black street child regard a white woman, whom he sees once a week, as a motherly figure?

It’s because, in Cheryl, he sees love like he has never known; love that is unconditional, unassuming and without expectation or judgment.  The racial and class divides no longer exist. It has nothing to do with Cheryl or Maxwell, and everything to do with the love of God.

Cheryl clearly remembers the night she met Maxwell. She and the team were walking in Durban central when four young boys happened past them. Spontaneously, Cheryl approached them and started up a conversation. It was during this time that one of the boys opened up to her, telling her about a tough life that no child should have to endure. This boy’s vulnerability prompted another boy, Maxwell, to come forward and tell his story as well. Cheryl soon discovered that these boys were being isolated by their community and her heart broke for them.

She and the rest of the team realised it was time to turn this into more than just a once-off conversation.

They organised to meet up with the boys the following week in the same place. Cheryl baked chocolate muffins and took a basket of food as well hot water and soap. She had made each boy a bag which was filled with a blanket, a bible and three sets of clothes for each of them.

When the boys arrived, Cheryl noticed that they looked a lot cleaner than they had the week before – they had washed and bathed themselves for this “special” occasion.

Through the night, other kids joined in with the feast that the team had prepared and towards the end of it, Cheryl gave the four boys their bags and bibles. On the inside of the bibles, she had written “a letter from God” to each of them, reminding them how special they were and how much Jesus loves them.  The group prayed together, the boys read a little of their bibles, and they made plans to meet up with each other again.

Following that wonderful time, Cheryl met regularly with the boys, got them connected to the Umgeni Community Empowerment Centre as well as Umthombo Children’s Home.

But as we can all imagine, life on the streets is never easy.

The boys would often bathe at the showers on the beachfront promenade, washing the clothes they had been given and making sure to keep their bags and bibles with them always. Sadly one day, all their stuff was taken from them and they were beaten badly.

It was after this that three of the boys lost touch with Cheryl, falling back into their old habits and living patterns… but one boy still remained.

Maxwell continued to pursue God. He started attending surfing lessons and eventually was granted a scholarship. He still sees Cheryl, or “Mom”, regularly, his arms always outstretched. And even though the other boys do not have the same story to tell as Maxwell, seeds have been planted in their hearts, they have encountered God and their journey is still unfolding.

One night, one spontaneous encounter with those boys was all it took for a relationship to develop. And it had nothing to do with Cheryl or the Street Ministry team, but everything to do with God and his unfailing, unchanging love and merciful grace for the poor, the broken and the thief.  Out there on the streets, where it’s scary and unfamiliar, God met with a group of normal people and used them to have an eternal affect on the lives of rejected and hurting children.

When we step out of the comfortable environments, we are able to join in and get involved in the work that God is already doing in the uncomfortable ones, and this WILL result in an eternal impact

To volunteer and be apart of our Street Ministry team, get in touch with us. We cannot wait to meet you.