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 chronically 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 campaign to raise money for food parcels. These were distributed with the assistance of the homecare workers and a small group of volunteers.
From that small beginning many have been involved as volunteers began to assemble and take food parcels to those in desperate need. For many it was their first visit to shack dwellings. As one volunteer remarked, “I can never be the same!” Learning to share, to give and to help has been part of this journey for many. The beneficiaries who receive assistance whilst applying for SASSA grants have found not only practical assistance but also counselling and some have gone on to join one of the three support groups at Siphila Sonke.
We live together
Much of the employment in this vicinity is of a seasonal nature and relies heavily on fruit growing. In the cold rainy winter months the numbers of unemployed increase substantially. Add to this a high prevalence of HIV, AIDS and TB and the poor find their situation untenable.
Siphila Sonke provides vulnerable individuals, both adults and children, who are needy and/or too ill to earn a living (and who are not yet receiving appropriate government grants) with a monthly healthy food parcel as well as home-made soup. Siphila Sonke then regularly visits these beneficiaries in their homes to assist them physically, practically, emotionally and spiritually. At present approximately 60 parcels are prepared and distributed monthly.
When beneficiaries are well enough skills are taught both for therapeutic value and for potential additional income. At present there are three support groups: Gardening, Beading and Crafting, and Sewing. On the site at Imizamo there is also the Abba Family Counselling Centre which assists numerous individuals and families.
Our field workers carry out beneficiary interviews and assessments, home visits and record keeping, referral to other organisations and general assistance such as help with applying for documentation such as ID books and birth certificates.
Each afternoon more than 100 children ranging in age from 6 – 13 years attend Kids Club where there is creative and academic stimulation. The grounds provide a safe and fun area to run and play whilst the newly built computer room in the loft allows the CAMI project with its 20 laptops as well as the School in a Box project with its 25 tablet computers to become a learning hub! This is a generation who can access the world at a touch of a button. Volunteers also help with a variety of subjects including Reading, Maths, Art, Scripture and more – it’s all-round learning.
Daily on arrival at Siphila Sonke the children receive a light snack which includes a sandwich and fruit. They also enjoy excursions from time to time as well as parties for special occasions including the well-attended Christmas party! Holiday programmes are always fun and incorporate extras such as visiting speakers, occasional baking sessions, art, dance and movies. Add to all of the above our scholarship programmes and you can see that the dedicated team of staff and volunteers are keep on their toes. We are grateful to our sponsors who make this all possible for as Desmond Tutu said “Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value”.
The needs in our valley continue to escalate as there are now 14 informal settlements in this vicinity. The challenges of education, the chronically ill, the desperately poor as well as job creation are all pressing.
As our Kids Club children grow and mature we annually award two scholarships to a local fee paying school for Kids Club learners who have shown commitment and ability. Hence our numbers of sponsored children increase each year and we are seeing “our” students now being promoted to tertiary institutions.
This year we are fortunate to have seven children who are benefitting from the scholarship programme. Six are attending Grabouw High School and one Astra School for the Disabled in Cape Town. We are eternally grateful that we can influence the lives of these children and offer them greater life opportunities.
Lorenzo Carelse also excels in sport and has just been included in the Southern Boland Cricket U14 team as opening bat. He is now focusing on the rugby season.
The chronically ill, the desperately poor
Our beneficiary programme provides both food parcels (each costs approx. R350) plus practical assistance in obtaining SASSA grants. There are also opportunities for those who are well enough to attend a variety of skills training programmes.
Our staff complement has increased as has our volunteer base. One young man who assisted at Kids Club last year is now a full time student at the University of the Western Cape.
Siphila Sonke team was privileged to attend the Impumelelo awards. Please read the blog entitled "We must make a difference" for more details.