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Jemimah’s Story

 

Ten-year-old Jemimah Chihenga is a talkative and bubbly Grade 4 learner at Addington Primary School in inner-city Durban.  In her class of 45 learners, Jemimah has come to love social sciences, but still battles with maths, particularly long division.  Her teacher, Ms Mkhize, comes early in the morning before class to help Jemimah and other students with their maths.  This year, Jemimah reached Position 3 in her class; however, her academic achievements have been part of a longer journey that began four years ago.

In Grade 1, Jemimah was referred to CAST’s Wordworks Early Literacy Programme at Addington Primary.  Originally from the DR Congo, Jemimah’s family speaks primarily Swahili at home.  Learning in a second language proved challenging for Jemimah, and she needed the extra support at Wordworks to help her develop the foundational English reading and writing skills needed to understand and complete her schoolwork.

She was paired with a volunteer who used games and activities to teach Jemimah phonics and spelling words. Thanks to this individual attention, Jemimah was able to graduate from the Wordworks programme, confident in her reading and writing skills.

More recently, Jemimah joined CAST’s ‘Give Your Brain a Hand’ creative arts programme at Addington Primary.  This programme supports development of the ‘right-brain’ through dance, needlework, speech & drama, and arts & crafts.  Jemimah particularly enjoys needlework, and has learned how to do basic stitching and embroidery.  So far, she has made a pin cushion, small handbag, jersey, apron and doll’s dress.  One day, she hopes to make a red tablecloth for her mother.

Jemimah would like to become a teacher when she’s older; however, her parents have encouraged her to pursue medicine.  Jemimah hopes to merge these two desires through helping people who have cancer or are HIV-positive.

During the July holidays this year, Jemimah also had the chance to attend CAST’s ‘Crowned’ Addington Holiday Club where she learned how to be royalty (including how to do royal bows) and to be grateful to God for protecting her family.

Jemimah’s father was part of starting the Evangelical Miracle Centre on Smith Street.  On the weekends, Jemimah is proud to sing in the choir at her dad’s church. She also participates in a Friday Bible study at Addington Primary with 38 other children.

CAST believes that in order to empower families and communities, we must rescue the cognitive potential of every child in every community where we partner through academic, creative arts and spiritual development programmes.  By reaching learners like Jemimah at the foundational phase, CAST is able to build the groundwork for academic success through developing reading and writing skills.  To learn more about how you can volunteer and support the Wordworks Early Literacy Programme, contact CAST at: 031 266 8830 or info@cast.org.za

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Lydia

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“CAST – it was like an angel coming to my doorstep.”

Most people don’t know that Lydia is sick.  A bright, cheerful CAST volunteer who loves to look smart, Lydia faithfully comes to CAST’s Wordworks Literacy Programme twice a week to assist Addington Primary School learners with basic reading and writing skills.

Lydia passes on her joy to the learners through her contagious smile.  However, her smile and laughter hides a world of physical pain that she has lived with since 2006 when she was diagnosed with cancer.

In fact, Lydia first connected with CAST through a friend in the Parklands cancer ward.  It was through this friend that she met Janine Pepper, CAST’s Community Development Manager.

At the time, Lydia had lost her job as a Forensic Report Analyst because she was too sick to go to work.  A family friend was providing for her medical aid, but Lydia battled to pay for rent, electricity, and food.

As a social worker, Janine encouraged Lydia to access a disability grant to cover some of her expenses, as well as monthly food parcels from CAST.

During this time Lydia had received eviction notices and was in court fighting to stay in her flat.  With Janine’s assistance from CAST, Lydia was able to secure enough finances to pay for her rent.  Then just when things were looking better, Lydia hit rock bottom when she came home to her flat building and found all her belongings thrown out in the street.  Despite paying her rent in full, Lydia was unjustly thrown out of her flat.

As Lydia explains, “I was like a laughing stock.  It was the biggest humiliation.”

Eventually with the help of Janine, Lydia was able to move back into her flat.

Wanting to give back to the community, Lydia was introduced to the Wordworks Programme by Yasmin Adams, CAST’s Inner City Area Coordinator.  She now actively tutors several learners struggling with basic literacy and language skills.  In the Literacy Programme, Lydia has found a purpose.

Lydia confidently says, “I still believe God wanted to prove He has been with me all the way.  Each day means a lot to me.  God has been journeying with me.  He’s preparing me for something big to come.”

All of CAST’s programmes are grassroot by nature, being run by ordinary people, for ordinary people, but in ways that bring extraordinary results.  Many of CAST’s volunteers are themselves CAST food parcel recipients, business forum participants, sports team members, or counselling clients.

CAST’s goal is to give a hand up, not a hand out.  Our heart is to mobilise the local church to reach out with practical compassion, to empower and transform lost and hurting communities.  By empowering people to transform their own communities, we believe that the Kingdom of God will be advanced.

Currently, Lydia is still looking for some kind of employment.  If you know of a job opportunity suited for Lydia, please contact Janine Pepper at: janine@cast.org.za

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Lizzie’s English Classes

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During a typical week at Masibambisane Centre in Cato Manor, you might witness support groups for HIV positive community members, gardening projects, church services, and community members receiving CAST food parcels.

But recently, a new group of people from Cato Manor started coming to Masibambisane Centre for assistance: Grade R to Grade 2 learners!

It all started with CAST’s Cato Manor Area Coordinator, Lizzie Mkhize, posting a notice on her fence, advertising English classes for young learners.  Lizzie had noticed how many young children in her community did not begin to learn English until Grade 4 in the township schools, so she decided to open her own English classes, offered every weekday from 3-6pm.

Parents came to ask about bringing their children, and soon after Lizzie had 30 kids ready to learn how to speak and write in English.

Because Lizzie has no “kiddie-sized” chairs or tables, the children sit on the floor during class.  Oftentimes her learners come with hungry bellies after school, and struggle to concentrate on the lesson.  Lizzie takes one day at a time, providing snacks as she can, and patiently teaching English through fun activities and games.

Parents are happy to see their children learning English at such an early age.  As one parent told Lizzie, “We thank you very much for your extra class.  They are really helpful.”

In December, Lizzie would like to give a “graduation” for the learners to celebrate their accomplishments.

As part of the greater mission of CAST’s Educational Assistance Programme, this new programme in Cato Manor is working to remove obstacles that stand in the way of learner success.  If you are interested in this new opportunity there are many ways to get involved through volunteering, providing snacks, donating “kiddie-sized” tables and chairs, or donating educational books and materials.  Contact Murry Pieterse at murry@cast.org.za if you are interested.

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An Army of Volunteers

“We are going to need what a wonderful book calls a moral underground, an army of volunteers.” -Prof. Jonathan Jansen

DSC_0569 As a grandfather and long-time member of Westville Baptist Church, Sandy Forsyth has a heart for children and serving God.  Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, you can count on seeing Sandy at Addington Primary School.  Sandy consistently gives of his time to tutor students at Addington.  Rain or shine, and even when few volunteers are to be found, Sandy arrives at Addington, ready to pour into the lives of the children.

Five years ago, Sandy listened to a video in which Professor Jonathan Jansen spoke about the problem of education in South Africa.  Jansen discussed the incongruence between private schools, where a small amount of middle to upper class students attend, and the poorer and under-resourced public schools, where the majority of the population is educated.  Instead of blaming the government, Jansen challenged ordinary people to get involved in education through volunteering their time to tutor students – even just a couple hours a week.  Jansen called for an “army of volunteers” to tackle these issues.

Sandy took this message to heart, and began to look for opportunities to volunteer at a school.  In 2006 his daughter, Lucy Johnson, and Lauren Bras started a ministry in Addington, and they were looking for volunteers who could help Addington students with their homework after school.  After Lauren approached Sandy about volunteering with CAST at Addington, he began to come faithfully every week.

Addington Primary is a unique school in that many of the students are refugees from other countries in Africa.  They speak Swahili, French, and other local languages from their home countries.  Students often fall behind because they do not have basic English language skills, and their parents are unable to assist in their education because of the language barrier as well.  In addition, children are instructed in classes of 40 or more students, allowing little time for individual attention from teachers. The result is that many students do not know their alphabet or basic phonics.  The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the school only began to offer Grade R two years ago, so many of the students lack any pre-primary education which normally provides the necessary foundation for basic language and literacy skills.

Instead of being intimidated by these many challenges, Sandy dived in with his students, helping groups of 8 to 10 students to complete their homework after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  During the past few months, CAST has changed Homework Help into a programme that addresses the unique needs of Addington students.  The new Literacy Programme uses material from Wordworks, an organisation that supports the early language and literacy learning of children from historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa.

A picture of Sandy drawn by one of his students

A picture of Sandy drawn by one of his students

Sandy enjoys the new Literacy Programme because it allows more one-on-one attention for students.  Each volunteer in the programme is paired with two students, allowing more focus on foundational language and literacy skills.  By working with only two children, Sandy believes you can more clearly see the progress and growth of students.

Sandy encourages retirees to get involved with the Literacy Programme because there is a need for volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday morning.  By giving a few hours a week to tutor two students, you can help tackle the problem of education in South Africa.  CAST provides training for Literacy Programme volunteers, and the Wordworks materials makes it easy to jump in and get started with the programme right away.  CAST also provides a library of books for volunteers to use with the students.

CAST’s Educational Assistance Programme aims to rescue the academic potential of learners through the Literacy Programme which will help them grasp key concepts, and reduce obstacles to future success.  However the Literacy Programme needs ordinary people that can become “an army of volunteers” to tackle the issues that hinder the potential of students.  If you are passionate about children and issues of education, please contact Murry, CAST’s Volunteer Coordinator at murry@cast.org.za.

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Wordworks

A few weeks ago, we heard about Jupiter, who attended CAST’s literacy programme training.  CAST’s literacy programme is based on another programme called Wordworks, which was established in 2005 to support and improve early language and literacy learning among children from historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa. CAST received book donations for Wordworks from a local book supply company called Books2You.  The books were intended to go to Westville Senior Primary, but the school decided to donate them to CAST’s literacy programme instead.  This generous donation will allow children in local communities to develop their reading skills, while also developing a lifelong love of reading and education. A big thank you to Westville Senior Primary School and Books2You for their thoughtful donation!

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