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When a mother and her kids have been through the trauma of abuse, and are still in a state of shock and fear, when even a slightly raised voice can turn them into quivering wrecks, their transformation when they come to Carehaven is almost miraculous.
At this Salvation Army shelter for abused women and their children hope
is like a fountain of life. The kindness and understanding that emanates from all who serve here is equally astonishing. It wraps around the victims as tangible, healing blankets. It is like a cocoon of love from God himself
that embraces the abused, creating a protectiveness that gives them strength to go on.
The hardships each of these unique and special women has endured touches and guides our daily lives. Their courage and generosity of spirit often astound us, and their perpetual hope, even when times are bleakest, is always inspirational.
Carehaven’s Administrator, Captain Miranda Lang, and her staff of 11 thank
God for the wonderful assistance of Mrs Alice Fisher, a tireless and loyal volunteer. All have an abundance of understanding, kindness and love. Those in their care feel fortunate and cherished indeed.
The abused women arrive here broken and beaten, with no self-confidence or self-esteem. They are destitute, traumatised and degraded as human beings. Surprisingly, it has taken great courage to leave the scene of their violation. Captain Miranda’s team works hard to change that. “We impress on these women that whatever happens in your life, you need to know that you are a child of God, that He loves you and will find a way for you,” she says.
The shelter provides skills training, such as computer literacy and sewing, which offers hope for the future. “It is often the lack of alternatives that keeps the women in an untenable situation. As we have a small crèche here, on the premises, women fortunate enough to find employment can go out to work with peace of mind,” the Captain continued.
Alice Fisher, our 79-year-old volunteer, is a self-taught seamstress who has
worked tirelessly with us for the last 15 years. She believes God healed her of cancer and led her to Carehaven to give hope to the women who’ve suffered so cruelly. She has a passion for sewing and her gentle attitude towards her students offers them real hope for the future. Their first task is to cut out and stitch a bag by hand before being taught to use an industrial sewing machine. They then learn to make a pillowcase, duvet cover, shorts, vest and apron. When leaving the shelter they proudly take these goods with them. Most fabric is donated by our supporters, some occasionally comes from Cape Town stores.
Carehaven also runs a charity shop in Mowbray and donations of clothing, furniture and bric-á-brac are most welcome. Without our dedicated volunteers like Alice, and supporters such as you, we just couldn’t do it.
Dedicated to loving and protecting against massive odds
Five years ago we brought you the inspiring story about a girl called Nancy who came to our Joseph Baynes Home for Children in Pietermaritzburg when she was just six years old. Her mother had been killed in northern KZN political violence. The Salvation Army is still Nancy’s life. She is now Captain Nancy Ndlovu, married to a Salvation Army Officer, Captain Sanele Ndlovu, and together they are the officers for the Bonteheuwel Corps (church) and Administrators for the Bonteheuwel Nursery School. Capt. Nancy is also responsible for Women’s Ministries!
“The school has five classes attended by 120 kids living in the area. We take children from 18 months up to Grade R (six years old). Our daily programme starts with prayer, followed by breakfast, then education, play time and stories, interspersed with tea and snacks. And each child also receives a cooked lunch,” Capt. Sanele explained.
There are many challenges to face in this troubled Cape Town suburb. “A lot
of kids have learning disabilities due to pregnant mothers’ drug use, some are violent and angry – because of home experience.” Capt. Sanele continued. The children wear identifying nursery school shirts, so lost kids are quickly found.
There’s a monthly charge of R550 but if parents fall on hard times, they’re
given the opportunity to volunteer for garden work or to help with cleaning or kitchen duty.
“During August we arranged a fashion show, which really helped boost the
kids’ confidence − and was a lot of fun! We want to build up this nursery school to be a foundation of hope – a place where the kids feel loved, cared for and protected. A place where they find peace and is very different from home. We see kids who are beaten – and parents in denial, claiming the child fell.” reported Capt. Nancy, sadly.
Bonteheuwel Nursery School is known in the community as a ‘safe haven’, a place of love and care and it is heartbreaking to turn people away when full. The need is so great out there.
“We also invite single moms to breakfast once a month when we pray for them and encourage them to come to church. ‘Sharing is Caring’,” says Capt. Nancy. “The area is impoverished and the community is prone to awful problems like child abuse as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Teenage pregnancy is rife: many girls of 13 and 14 are already having babies. Domestic violence is ‘normal’ too. We see women broken, abused, raped. We journey with them.” exclaims Capt. Nancy.
The Captains willingly serve the community. Their outreach programme includes a thrice-weekly feeding scheme. Fortunately the gangster community respects The Salvation Army and allows our workers to go into the back streets where they feed about 100 people. They will continue to bring hope and show the love of Jesus to those in need.
The Bonteheuwel church community is very caring – congregations bring no longer- needed clothing to the church, which is given to the needy on the feeding route. Since we are dedicated to ministering where the people are, prayers are said on the streets.
URGENTLY NEEDED: The Nursery School needs seven mini toilet upgrades for the little ones. And a new Wendy House with bathroom and kitchen is also a priority to accommodate the baby class of kids aged from 18 to 24 months. Also educational toys and children’s story books. Any donations will be joyously accepted.
In the heart of SA’s murder capital
Imagine you have a kid about three years old, say, and he’s running about in the local park with a bunch of other little ones, laughing and shouting, when suddenly there are gunshots and they all fall down! Their youthful exuberance is snuffed out like a light and a cloud of fear hangs over the park. Has your kid been hit?
This is life in Manenberg, a suburb on the Cape flats that’s home to many of the most notorious gangs in the country. It’s rumoured that living in Manenberg makes you three times more likely to be murdered than anywhere else in South Africa. And in the heart of this gangland is where The Salvation Army, in divine faith, has a crèche and church (Corps).
Major Lorna Fillies is our Officer and Administrator at Manenberg. “My heart goes out to people living here, especially the children” she declares. “Sometimes the shooting is so bad, we teach the kids to lie down the moment they hear a shot, even if they’re playing outside.”
At the crèche there are 92 children aged from two to six years, under The Salvation Army’s care and protection. The classes are age-related – 2 and 3 years, 4 and 5 years, and 6 years. It is open Mondays to Fridays and follows a pre-school programme with each child enjoying a much-needed breakfast and lunch every day. Many of ‘our’ kids have very young, single parents who receive a child grant. Most live in shacks or are back-yard tenants.
In this poverty-stricken community domestic violence is also rife − and exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse. Poor and hungry people are a daily sight, which is why every Tuesday the Manenberg Corps tries to feed about 200 ravenous people, at least half of whom are children − probably their only meal for the day, possibly for longer. “No-one is turned away. Even those who come to the gate get some food − and a blanket when we have. It’s most encouraging to see how many of the community kids are now coming to Sunday School.” comments Major Fillies.
The delicious aroma of cooking wafts down the passage, drawing visiting Major Carin Holmes to chat to Mavis Boonzaaier* (45) who’s stirring a huge pot of savoury mince to serve with rice for lunch. Mavis, who’s been a volunteer at the crèche for three months, was born and grew up in Manenberg. This single mum has four children (she lives off child grants) and an eight-year-old granddaughter of whom she is very proud. All live with her. She is separated from her husband, a drug addict, who gives her no support at all. Like so many in this community, Mavis dreams of having a permanent job. This kind and caring soul is so poor a food parcel means the world to her. She, herself, is known as the ‘neighbourly helping hand’ – many of the local kids come to her for food when there’s none in their home. Mavis believes ‘Give and you will receive’.
When Mavis was nine months pregnant with her youngest daughter she was shot in the leg by a gangster. As she says in Afrikaans: ‘n mens moet opstaan en aan gaan, kannie bly lê nie. Translated this means: ‘a person has to get up and go’. “I love playing Netball in the park but when the shooting starts I fall to the ground.” she says. Her big wish to find a permanent job is accompanied by “and to coach young girls in netball”.
Mavis attends Sunday church service and weekly events like Bible Study and Home League. She has great admiration for Major Fillies and claims to have learnt a lot in the short time she’s been at the crèche. She also enjoys the counselling and prayer time spent with the Major, whom she thinks is ‘a very good lady. We are blessed to have her,” she says, smiling broadly.
*Name changed to protect identity
Urgent need at the crèche: to have the playground paved.
Seeing your life go up in flames
In all of life there can be few experiences worse than watching your entire life go up in flames. Every piece of clothing. Every sheet and towel. Each curtain. Furniture crackling apart like kindling. A lifetime of letters. Books that conjured up hundred of thrilling stories. Pictures you’ve cherished. The walls you grew up surrounded by. The stairs you’ve run up and down a thousand times. Every precious memory of two generations.
This is the terrible shock Fatima Jacobs* faced in the early hours of June 12, when she awoke to go to the bathroom and smelt burning. She dashed downstairs to find her kitchen on fire. Suddenly wide awake, she flew back upstairs to wake her kids and get them out the house.
The family, three girls aged 20, 15 and 6 and a son of 10, huddled together with their 42-year old mother who was seven months pregnant, watching helplessly in the wind and cold as their home burnt away. A home their mother had been born in and they’d all grown up in. The fire brigade arrived hours too late.
But then Bonteheuwel is not a high priority in Cape Town. Fires are common there in the bitterly cold winters. Lots of low-cost houses were badly built, in a hurry, and not all electric cables were properly insulated, or even correctly connected. But Fatima’s home was not one of them! It was the only home she’d ever known. What would happen to her and her children now?
Now this family lives in a container!
“I don’t know what we’d have done without the generous help from The Salvation Army,” says Fatima.“While the container provided by the council at least protects us from the elements, we thank The Salvation Army for helping us make it home. They brought us a bed, blankets, food and water. They prayed for us. And gave us hope. We are so grateful that these kind officers have been so helpful and supportive. It means a lot to me and my family.”
* Name changed to protect identity
What inspires you?
I didn’t have to think too long or hard before answering. The first thing that sprang to mind was the good stories I hear! These are the stories that come from The Salvation Army using its spiritual footprint in Southern Africa to its full extent. In South Africa alone, disasters happen every day. There is constant conflict. People are at risk. But what is comforting and uplifting is the knowledge that we, The Salvation Army, is helping the poorest and most vulnerable, adults and children, across the country. And you, our generous and dedicated donor, is the enabling source of what we achieve.
In this issue of the Reporter we are throwing light on the monumental tasks we are faced with in the Cape. The nurturing given to children in crèches in real gang-lands. A meal served to the ill-fed, strategies planned, audacious care givers moving into violent communities, suffering humanity being
selflessly served. The Salvation Army is a seemingly never-sleeping, living organisation with which you and I engage every day.
In a recent interview, our new, international leader, General Brian Peddle, mentioned that his priorities will be to continue to focus on child protection, the Governance dialogue, the ‘accountability movement’ and the responsibility of winning the world for Jesus and growing the Kingdom to serve suffering humanity.
As we once again highlight in these pages a little of the work The Salvation Army is doing here, in all humility I can only thank you again for your continued and generous support. And I wonder what makes you want to rise each day.