How did we start?
In the Beginning
In June 2003 Bev Morgan, in her role as Training Manager at St Johns’ Ambulance, ran a Home Based Care training programme for Community Homecare Workers at Elgin Community College (now Elgin Learning Foundation). It was during this time that the overwhelming needs of the sick in the community of the local informal settlement, were brought to her attention.
In particular, Bev was deeply disturbed by stories of how the Homecare Workers often took food from their own meagre supplies to provide basic nutrition to those they were caring for. Together with the support of the Elgin United Church, Bev organised a fundraising campaign to raise money for food parcels. These were distributed with the assistance of the Homecare Workers and a small group of Volunteers.
Siphila Sonke means ‘We Live Together’. This name was suggested by one of the Homecare Workers soon after the group started and is indicative of the strong sense of working together between the members of the group and the unity they felt towards helping those in need, in the community.
The Early Years
For the first few years of our existence, Siphila Sonke had no formal premises. Volunteers and the Homecare Workers from the Elgin Community College met outside the local Grabouw village library to sort out food parcels for distribution. Initially, meetings were held in the open. The library kindly let us use one of their rooms for meetings or when it was raining! When a Support Group was set up we had to meet in a Beneficiary’s one-roomed dwelling in the informal settlement!
By the end of 2006, we realised that we needed to find a ‘home’ and we started looking for premises. At that time, the Elgin United Church was assisting with the building of a new church called ‘Imizamo’ in the informal settlement. Since the church’s facilities were mostly going to be used on weekends, it was a ‘win-win’ situation for Siphila Sonke to use the facilities during the week and share some of the running costs. We are grateful to the members of this wonderful congregation who have welcomed and accommodated us so willingly.
Having a permanent home gave us the opportunity to really expand our services within the community and we soon extended the Support Groups and started the Kids Club. At the beginning of 2010, a number of generous donations as well as the donation of a container by Safmarine, made it possible to extend the Imizamo United Church premises. This not only gave us much-needed additional office, storage and work space, but also provided space for other community-based organisations, including the ABBA Family Counselling Centre.
In 2013 a much-appreciated donation from the Wright Memorial Trust enabled us to erect a good fence and a proper gate around the Imizamo Church complex and to level and re-grass the Kids Club Playground. The children in the community now have a safe green area to play in, and both ABBA and Siphila Sonke make regular use of this lawn for various outdoor activities.
Additionally, the Wright Memorial Trust afforded us more funding in early 2014 that, together with other generous contributions from Local Donors and others, enabled us to undertake alterations to the container, which was previously generously donated by Safmarine. These alterations included a new roof, a veranda and 2 storerooms. Additionally, the existing room has been upgraded to an additional classroom for the Kids Club with built-in desks and new furniture, enabling us to accommodate and help more children.
Being in the heart of the community in which we operate, Imizamo United Church has proved to be the perfect location!