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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

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Food Parcel Sunday

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This Sunday is Food Parcel Sunday at Westville Baptist Church.  Listed below are some interesting statistics that show the growth of the food parcel programme at CAST over the past three years:

2013 Stats:

Average amount of food parcels per month: 220

Total number of food parcels given: 2640

Total number of meals: 10,560

2014 Stats:

Average amount of food parcels per month: 300

Total number of food parcels given: 3460

Number of recipients discharged: 12

Number of new recipients: 35

Number of people on the waiting list: 41

Total number of meals: 13,840

Goals for 2015:

Food parcels per month: 330

Total number of food parcels: 3960

Total number of meals: 15,840

Thank you to all who contributed towards food parcels & the Snowflake Drive! CAST still needs funds in order to accommodate individuals on the waiting list who are in need of food parcels.

Are you interested in sponsoring a food parcel for a local family in need?

Speak to Rachel Engelbrecht by phone: 0312671716 or by email: rachel@cast.org.za to find out more about how you can get involved.

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Lamontville Pt. II

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Last week, we met Mama Palesa, a grandmother in Lamontville who has been empowered through CAST’s various programmes. During the next several weeks, CAST would like to introduce you to several women living in the community of Lamontville who are actively involved in CAST.

Initially intended for Durban’s African middle class, Lamontville is Durban’s oldest township. A historically and culturally rich community, Lamontville remains a major athletic, artistic, and political hub.

As a result, many individuals move to Lamontville from the farms to find work. One of those individuals is Princess.  In 2005 Princess came from the Eastern Cape with a friend to work in Lamontville.  However, when her friend passed, Princess was left alone. For work she cleaned at a take-away kitchen in Chatsworth, but after the birth of her son she lost her job.

Fast-forward to 2013, Princess is raising three boys on her own, struggling to make ends meet. A friend that attended Lamontville Baptist Church told Princess about CAST. She met with CAST’s Lamontville Area Coordinator and was put on the food parcel programme.

Currently, Princess cleans at a salon a few hours a week for work, but she plans to sell clothing in the near future as an additional income to support her sons.

Just like Mama Palesa, Princess received holistic services from CAST. CAST believes that true transformation happens when we move beyond just charity to meet the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of people. Our goal is that those individuals receiving food parcels will be empowered through CAST’s Business Development programme to become self-sufficient. Additionally, CAST’s Counselling, Youth Development, and Educational programmes are able to support the entire family. Our community churches also provide a spiritual home for many of the families CAST works with.

Oftentimes, food parcels become the beginning step for individuals to receive holistic care from CAST. CAST is always looking for volunteers who can donate, pack, or deliver food parcels. If you are interested in reaching out with practical compassion through CAST’s food parcels, please contact Rachel, CAST’s Food Parcel Ministry Coordinator, at rachel@cast.org.za.

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Mama Palesa

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Simphiwe Mbeje, CAST’s Lamontville Area Coordinator (on right), works with many women in his community who are the sole supporters of their families. He ensures these women receive food parcels from CAST’s Povery Relief Programme. One of those ladies is Mama Palesa (on left). She lives in a simple home, cooking samp and beans from her CAST food parcel over a fire outside her home. Supporting her seven children and eleven grandchildren, Mama Palesa makes and sells children’s clothing in Durban Central.

Mama Palesa experienced the loss of her husband in 1995. In the past, she had supported her family through sewing and gardening alone. However, things became more difficult as her family continued to grow. Mama Palesa began to sell meat bones out of desperation to make ends meet. With no one else working in the family, Mama Palesa was not coping well with the load she was carrying.

Last year, someone told her about CAST. Mama Palesa met with CAST’s Lamontville Area Coordinator and was put on the food parcel programme. Mama Palesa thanks CAST for the support because she is able to feed her family. Her grandchildren even receive Christmas gifts through CAST’s lovebox drive!

One of Mama Palesa's grandchildren

One of Mama Palesa’s grandchildren

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Mama Palesa is always looking for ways to support her family, so she also joined the CAST Business Forum. She has always used sewing to support her family, but CAST gave her the opportunity to sell at other markets, such as Hope Market in Umhlanga. In addition to making and selling clothing, Mama Palesa collects bottles and cans outside her home to recycle as a small income.

Mama Palesa is one of many women in Lamontville who have been empowered by CAST’s services. If you are interested in supporting someone like Mama Palesa through CAST’s business forum or food parcel programme, please contact Murry, our Volunteer Coordinator, at murry@cast.org.za.

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Winter Warmth

Last week, CAST had a chance to partner with a life group from Westville Baptist Church to reach out with practical compassion in Lamontville.

It all started last year, when the same life group from Westville Baptist saw some kids playing without jerseys on a cold evening.  Their group had the idea to collect jerseys for those who needed them most during the colder winter months.  Although the vision was present, the group ran out of time to complete the project.

This year was different.  When Westville Baptist began 40 Days of Community, the same life group decided it was time to reach out.  Winter Warmth Jersey Drive started out as a simple Facebook page and grew into a campaign to make the greater Durban area a warmer place.

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The life group partnered with another life group to collect more than 500 jerseys.  Each individual in the group collected by advertising on Facebook, putting posters up at work, and even going door to door asking for jerseys.

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The only problem was that they didn’t know where to take the jerseys.  With so many communities that could benefit, the life groups wanted to make sure the jerseys went to individuals who needed them the most.  They also wanted to spend some time in the community where the jerseys would be distributed instead of just dropping them off.

So the life group leader contacted Murry Pieterse, CAST’s Volunteer Coordinator.  She was able to connect them with Lamontville Baptist Church, one of CAST’s local community churches.  The life groups decided to present the jerseys at Lamontville Baptist’s Sunday morning church service so they could see what the community was all about.

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At the service, the life group was amazed by the friendliness of the church members.  Every life group member was hugged, greeted, and warmly welcomed into worship and prayer.  When it came time to explain the Winter Warmth Jersey Drive, the church was blessed with the jerseys to distribute to the most needy in Lamontville.

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Winter Warmth Jersey Drive is one of the many ways CAST is mobilising local churches such as Lamontville Baptist Church to reach out with practical compassion to transform local communities.  CAST believes that true transformation happens when ordinary people are finding solutions together.

Next year the same life group from Westville Baptist would like to continue the Winter Warmth Jersey Drive in local communities where CAST works.  If you are interested in getting involved, please watch the Winter Warmth Jersey Drive page for more updates.

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One Step Further.

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Themba Dlamini, one of the great success stories to emerge out of CAST’s business development programme, has taken his car-wash business to the next level.

With dreams of expansion, Themba set out with a mission to purchase a container for his business. This would allow him to have a spaza shop running alongside his carwash so that while customers were waiting, they could hang out, purchase food and drinks and socialise with one another.

Last weekend, the passionate entrepreneur held an Open Day to celebrate the new development in his business. Denis de Chalain, who is a business mentor to Themba, works for the Imana Foods Group and organised for them to run an Imana promotion in conjunction with the Open Day. They required a core group of people to cook their food samples on the day and this was done by several of CAST’s Business Forum volunteers. This partnership helped contribute to the days success and drew in bigger crowds who were curious to see what the hype was about ( and wanted to get some free Imana promotional products).

Despite the rainy weather, a significant amount of people turned up to support KwaDabeka’s favourite businessman and the atmosphere was full of celebratory joy for Themba.

The next step is to develop his Car Wash business further by adding a “shisanyama”, or a braai area to the mix. He is looking forward to future events where other companies will be partnering with him to market his business as well as their brands, so watch this space.

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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!