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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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Hope for the Future: Judith’s Story

By Rolan Gulston

cast-judith-volunteer-hope-mariannridge01Since joining CAST as a programme participant two years ago, 31-year-old Judith Abrams has made a valuable impact in giving back to her community as a volunteer for CAST’s Child Literacy and Youth Development programmes.

Judith came to know CAST through a friend who worked at the Mariannridge CAST Community Centre assisting in the facilitation of programmes. She then signed up to participate in the Business Experience and Business Growth courses to learn how she could improve her own small business of selling cooked food from home, which she has been running for the past 2 years.

After successfully completing the course and graduating in 2018, Judith felt a renewed passion to expand her business, which she co-runs with her sister. Firstly, by registering her enterprise, “Judith’s Fast Food”, and then applying to the Local Councillor for permission to operate at the community taxi rank, the busiest spot in the area. Her long-term goal is to invest her profits into starting a franchise.

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Since learning these new skills, Judith feels a greater sense of self-belief and hope for the future. She looks forward to joining CAST’s sewing team in Mariannridge and would like to learn how to make evening attire, as there is a big market for Matric dance outfits in her community. Judith also dreams of pursuing a career in nursing, particularly in paediatrics, as she feels called to work with children.

This love of children drew her to volunteering with CAST as a tutor for the Word Works Early Literacy programme for Grade One’s, as well as facilitating the Resilience Life Orientation programme for the Grade Six learners at Mariannridge Primary School, a stone’s throw away from the CAST Community Centre.

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Learning how to teach Foundational Literacy using the Word Works material has helped Judith beyond the classroom in assisting her son who experiences learning difficulties due to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). She has developed a greater understanding of his cognitive-developmental level and has learnt how to be more patient with him.

The Resilience programme forms part of the national Life Orientation school curriculum, guiding children in the pre-teen age group to make ‘smart moves’ and work towards achieving their goals. Mentoring the children in this programme has created the space for Judith to form strong, supportive relationships with the youth in her community.

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The programme has helped Judith to “become one with the children in the community. They open up more,” she says. Having a 12-year-old daughter herself, Judith enjoys mentoring this age group as they move into their teen years and need more guidance through the many changes in their development, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Two children that Judith has worked with, in particular, have made great strides in improving their behaviour. One, a young boy bullied about his weight, who, in turn, started bullying others, has since stopped picking fights at school. Another, a young girl who turned to alcohol to cope with personal difficulties, invited Judith to join her family Sunday lunch and has been encouraged by Judith to make better choices.

Growing up in challenging circumstances, Judith knows first-hand the undue strain that these children experience when they are forced to grow up too quickly and take on adult responsibilities at home, often turning to harmful substances to alleviate the pressure. Her family did not have a steady income, and she suffered through an abusive relationship with her aunt. Other than her sister whom she currently lives with, Judith has little family support – her mother having passed away when she was younger, and her father remarrying and moved away. The father of Judith’s two children died tragically in a motorcycle accident.

Becoming a mother gave Judith the strength to stand up for herself and move past the pain. She has since made peace with the aunt who raised her and continues to pray for her. Being part of a strong spiritual community at a church in Mariannridge also helps Judith to feel supported and make positive changes in her life.

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Judith believes that there is hope, too, for the youth in her community. The key, she says, is “to stand together, and show them that we care.” Spending time consistently engaging with children and youth in the programmes have shown to have a significant positive impact on their development. If you would like to get involved in mentoring or tutoring in one of CAST’s target communities, contact us at: info@cast.org.za or call (+27) 31 266 8830 for more information.

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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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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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Helping the Family Business

 

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Meet Jocelyn (on the far right), a CAST Business Forum Trainer in Mariannridge.  She decided to get involved with the CAST “family business” as we like to call it, to make an impact in a community she is well-acquainted with.

Q: How did you hear about CAST & the Business Forum?

A: I heard about CAST via Westville Baptist Church and the signup day they had in 2015.

Q: What made you want to give back in Mariannridge?

A: I chose Mariannridge as it has a special place in my heart as my grandparents lived there until their passing on. We visited there most Sundays as my grandmothers house was the gathering place for the aunts/uncles and the many cousins. I felt led to give back and work within this community to honour my grandparents and help build up this community.

Q: What have you learned from being involved with the Business Forum?

A: I experienced growth in confidence and facilitator training skills via leading trainer sessions. I also experienced tremendous growth spiritually via increased knowledge of the Bible and sharing the Word and experiences during the biblical sessions.

Q: What advice would you give others who are interested in volunteering with the Business Forum?

A: My advice would be for volunteers to come with an open mind and be prepared to give as well as receive during the training sessions. Patience will also be required (traffic, delayed starts, later finishes -sometimes only to allow the participants all a chance to share).

Q: What do you enjoy most about Business Forum?

A: There were quite a few enjoyable moments through out the weekly sessions: the role plays brought lots of laughter, the competitive atmosphere during the selling/promoting sessions and quiz sessions. The best/most important part enjoyed was the graduation ceremony where I felt tremendous joy and pride witnessing the participants I had worked with over the weeks graduate and to share in their excitement and joy of completing the course!

If you would like to make an impact like Jocelyn and join the family business, make sure to contact Stuart at: stuart@cast.org.za to hear more about CAST’s Business Development volunteer opportunities.