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Coach Bongani

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Coach Bongani (far right) with some of his team at Sithokozile High School in KwaDabeka

By Rolan Gulston

Originally from Harrismith, 25-year-old Bongani Tshabalala has made a home in the community of KwaDabeka, a township situated just east of Pinetown. Since joining CAST as a volunteer soccer coach last year, he now feels fully invested in the development of the youth in the community.

Growing up with an older brother and two younger siblings, Bongani sought to become independent from an early age. While he spent much of his time at the gym training for the game that he loves, he did not see playing soccer as being a long-term career. Instead, he focussed on education, and encourages his boys to do the same.

Bongani has been studying mechanics since October last year. He shares that, as a youngster, he was not always diligent in his studies and often influenced his friends to take up drinking, smoking and dating to fit in with his social circle. Even attending church was something he did only to please his mother. This changed when he turned 21, as he began to appreciate his faith and attend church regularly without being pushed. As he got older and strengthened his relationship with God, he realised that the only person he can compete with is himself. He now attends KwaDabeka Baptist Church, and plays an active role in the Youth Ministry.

He first heard about CAST through a friend last year after living with his brother in Joburg for a year and half. The community centre in KwaDabeka was looking for a soccer coach, and he immediately jumped on board, but what he found was a deep lack of motivation in the team.

Gradually, through implementing the uBabalo Whole-life Coaching Programme, the boys have developed a close bond, and have learnt the value of supporting each other, “Because when you are playing soccer, you’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing as a team.”

Under his coaching, the boys won their first 10 games, and are now placed in the Pinetown League. Bongani believes in pushing the boys beyond their perceived level of capability by organising for his teams to play matches against older age groups as a way of helping them to adapt and gain experience. “God is here and anything is possible,” he tells them.

The team is steadily growing in number as the word spreads. The Under-15 and Under-17 boys train together three days a week. As part of the uBabalo programme, the team spends time reflecting on scripture before each training session, and many of the boys have shown great spiritual growth.

“God is always there. He is always watching you. I know it’s not going to be easy, but if you work hard, it won’t go away. If it’s easy, it won’t last.”

Bongani tries to always be an encouraging voice for the team, “I have never disgraced them. I tell them they should believe in themselves and trust each other. When I’m sharing myself, I am healing too.” His supportive, yet disciplined approach to coaching and mentoring has endeared him to the boys, who often tell him, “You are part of the family, you are always open.”

This year was his first time attending the annual boys2Men Camp. As a leader at the camp and in his community, Bongani took this time to mentor the young boys in the group of 60 that were selected to attend the camp. It also gave the boys a chance to talk about the things affecting them. He helped them to recognize bad influences in their lives, whether it be the people in their social circles or even the music they listen to. After sharing his testimony, he also taught them about making wise choices, not giving in to peer pressure, and rather than trying to change their friends immediately, start by telling them about the camp and share Bible verses with them.

Bongani found that previously, when selecting a captain, the boys would often choose the loudest player in the team but, lacking in respect for others. He soon drew out the quieter boys who showed leadership potential, and once placed in captaincy, began to change the mind-set of the team; leading by example in their dedication to the sport and their school work. Others have since also improved in their school results, and with Bongani’s guidance, have been applying for bursaries for tertiary education. He has also made time to help them form a study group for Maths and Science.

Between studying, training at the gym and playing matches, soccer keeps the boys busy. “They are no longer bored.” Bongani, too, feels that he has changed. For the past year, he has abstained from drinking and smoking.

“You should accept the way you are, and change the way you do things. Just having fun and buying lots of clothes won’t take you anywhere. Only education. God will provide everything later on.”

Bongani has a passion for youth development, especially empowering the young boys entering adolescence. Bongani’s dream is to empower them to become self-sufficient, productive members of their community. He, himself, has tried to set an example of this by seeing to his own groceries and rent of R550 a month. May was a particularly difficult month for Bongani, without money to afford food and basic necessities, but he still committed himself to training at the gym with the boys. He now receives a monthly food parcel from CAST’s Relief Services, which has been a great help. He hopes to one day have the means to support the boys in buying their soccer boots and kit. “I know I’ll accomplish that, but I know the path won’t be easy.”

Bongani would like to continue coaching, as he feels he is gaining a lot of experience, especially when working with the younger boys. “It’s something different, I am adapting.” To support Bongani in his mission to empower the youth, contact George at CAST on: 031 266 8830 or george@cast.org.za

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Ntombikhona’s Story

IMG_0302Every month, Ntombikhona walks over six kilometres to attend CAST’s Ministry Day in KwaDabeka and collect her CAST food parcel.

She first heard about CAST when she was trying to enroll her daughter at Sithokozile High School in KwaDabeka.  At the time, she had three other children in school and could not afford to pay her daughter’s school fees. Through CAST’s social worker, Ntombikhona was able to receive a school fee exemption for her daughter.                                              

CAST also sponsored her daughter’s school uniform and shoes.  As a result, her daughter was able to finish Matric.  Ntombikhona’s dream is for her children to pursue their education and for them to have a relationship with God.

Ntombikhona is also an avid netball player and volunteered to help Sibongile (a fellow food parcel recipient) coach the CAST’s girls’ netball team in KwaDabeka after doing the Poverty Stoplight Survey.

For R200 ($15), you can sponsor a food parcel to a local family in need.  CAST’s Relief Services are intended as a first step towards empowering these households and it is our aim to only have them on the food parcel programme for one year.  This is made possible by offering a holistic solution within CAST where families can be supported by the local church through other CAST development programmes.

For more information about how to donate and get involved, please contact Sandy Reid at:  031 266 8830 or sandy@cast.org.za

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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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Spinach & Soccer

 

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Rain or shine, you won’t find Sibu sitting in his house.

A typical day for Sibu starts with tending his farm: cabbage, spinach, green pepper, mealies and green beans.  By noon he is finished and ready to help out in his community.  Between attending Noodsberg Baptist Church, coaching CAST’s Noodsberg soccer team, participating in CAST’s Business Forum and teaching community members how to farm, Sibu keeps busy.

Sibu first started giving back to his community by coaching soccer.  He noticed that the boys did not have a coach – you can read the full story here.

But as Sibu explains,”The aim is not about soccer, it’s about the church.”

It was at boys2Men camp last year that Sibu came to know Jesus, which changed his life forever.  Now Sibu wants his boys on the soccer team to also experience the same transformation.

That’s why he has the team pray when they finish playing, and makes sure that the boys are in church on Sundays and Wednesdays.

It’s why he visits the boys at home, connecting with their families and getting to know the challenges they face.

It’s why he teaches the boys how to farm, and gives them a chance to get work experience.

As a ‘big brother’, Sibu walks alongside his boys, preparing them for adulthood.  He encourages them to stay in Noodsberg, because he knows the importance of having positive role models for the younger children.

More recently, Sibu has been involved with CAST’s Business Forum in Noodsberg.  After 3 months he became a Paradigm Shift trainer, as he found more and more people approaching him to learn about farming.

This month Sibu decided to raise money for home gardens in Noodsberg by selling seedlings.  In a matter of just a few minutes, he raised R150.

Sibu explains his motivation for this project, “I want people not to ask me for food, but to grow their own food – that’s why I am selling seedlings.”

Volunteers like Sibu, who are passionate about their communities, are vital to sustainable community development in the areas where CAST works.  Sibu is using simple opportunities like farming spinach and coaching soccer to transform his community for the Kingdom of God.  If you would like to know more about how you can become a CAST volunteer like Sibu, email volunteers@cast.org.za to find out more information.

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Making a Difference through ABCs

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Back when Rolan first started volunteering with CAST’s Wordworks Literacy Programme at Addington Primary School, one of her learners didn’t know their alphabet.  In fact, the child didn’t even really speak to Rolan at all.

However, thanks to the structured, easy to use, one on one tutoring format of Wordworks, Rolan has been able to transform this learner’s life, not only with literacy skills, but also through a warm and caring relationship.  It took some time, but now this Grade 1 learner opens up with Rolan, sharing stories and even writing full sentences.

Rolan heard about the Literacy Programme through one of CAST’s interns.  She wasn’t working and wanted to make the best use of her time, so Rolan jumped into volunteering.  Although she is not a teacher, Rolan still found it easy to get involved because of the Wordworks training and simple lesson structure.  In the beginning, she just observed for a few weeks to see how to help the kids and how to deal with behavioural issues if necessary.

Now Rolan is a seasoned Literacy Programme volunteer.  As she explains, “I feel so much more at ease with the kids and feel so much more confident.  You learn as you go.  The kids take awhile to trust volunteers.  It’s about building a relationship instead of just being another authority figure.  You’re growing with the child, both in your ability to teach and their ability to learn.  It’s a journey.”

Rolan believes that CAST’s Literacy Programme has the potential to positively change a learner’s whole attitude about school.  The Literacy Programme is part of CAST’s Educational Support Department, which aims to rescue the academic potential of learners through training and support programmes which will help them grasp key concepts, and reduce obstacles to future success.  Addington Primary School is located in Durban central, and has a large population of learners from refugee families.  Because of the language barrier and large class sizes, Wordworks is key for learners to grow in their foundational literacy skills, as well as providing a safe place for the children to express themselves.

If you would like to become a literacy volunteer like Rolan and make a difference in the life of a child, please contact Joseph Bode at joe@cast.org.za for more information about volunteer training.