Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Warm Wishes

Warm summer greetings to all of you. I can say that it is not so warm out this way. We are in the middle of winter, of course, and it has been very very wet recently. There have been so many changes since I last wrote. Thank you for your patience.

As I wrote before we moved forward with the opening of the safe house! We have prepared and fenced the land for a total of six homes, but the first was build and occupied in July. It was very special for me to be a part of the screening and preliminary preparation for the girls as several of them were in emergency situation and required removal from the homes prior to the building of the house. We were able to locate temporary living situations for four of the girls until the house was ready to be occupied. We had a fantastic opening ceremony with much community support from both inside and outside of Kayamandi. We are still seeking sponsorships for these girls and have delayed the building on the second house until early next year because of this. We want to have all the needs met for the first house before opening a second. We have 3 great partnering organizations helping us with construction and other costs; World Help International, Hope Builders Global and Threads Africa.

I have neglected to mention this previously but Kuyasa does send out a quarterly newsletter and it can easily be forwarded to anyone who is interested. If you send me an email regarding this I will be sure to get it to you. We have our winter newsletter coming out in a few weeks.

Another change has been that we have built new sport courts on a portion of the land. His has really bought in more youth and is helping to keep them off the streets and get them into our learning centre and other programs. The fields are in use none stop. It poured rain today, buckets and buckets and still the kids were out there in the cold and wet playing soccer until they were soaked.

We have moved into a new Hats & Glasses loft with the group and are working on getting it fixed up, we have some old couches and mattresses that we uses to sit on in our meetings. The roof is still pretty leaky, but it is special to have our own space. We are now meeting with Hats & Glasses 4 times a week.

Mondays we have separate boy/girls support groups and bible study. These new groups have taken on the names WOW (Woman of Wisdom) and POP (Pillars of Peace). The girls are going through a study about brokenness, healing from past hurts and using our suffering to help others and gather wisdom... and the boys are doing a study on how to overcome and understand fear (fear of rejection, suffering, death, abandonment, failure, many different types). These groups have really been amazing! The kids are sharing their hearts and past experiences with one another openly and hungry to love and be loved in these new communities. We meet on Tuesday and Wednesday nights as a large group, this year alone we have grown from 15 regular attenders to well over 60 at each large group meeting. We continue to leave the large meeting open for new members and have new people coming each week. The smaller Monday groups we will close to new members at the end of the month, allowing the kids to really have a solid, consistent community till the end of the year. We hope that this will create a solid base for the larger group and strengthen the committed members so they will be more confident as they share with and encourage their peers. Because the large group is so big we discovered that trust and intimacy relationally is really hard, so the small groups are helping with this now.

We have invited 3 new girls to be a part of the youth leadership core of H&G, these are the people who steer the group and make all the decisions about the group activities, budget and material used to facilitate sessions. We have a solid ten core leaders between the ages of 16 and 26. Most have been in the H&G group for 3 years. We meet together every Thursday to plan together. Currently we are planning several service projects in the community, the end of the year camp and trying to get the loft together.

Over the June holiday the H&G crew ran a Super Heroes Camp for 200 children from the community ages 3-13. They were absolutely amazing, keeping the kids active, learning and laughing all day! For two weeks they got up early everyday to come and serve during their break from school. They were exhausted by the time they went home each day, but the impact on the lives of the kids they worked with was and continues to be really amazing. The kids did not need Superman or Batman our H&G crew became the super heroes for these kids and their relationship continues in even today.

They have also been patching roofs! This was my hope and desire even in May. We had a local bank donate large rolls of thick black plastic and staple guns. We located families very easily and went for it. Our list of “holey” roofs is very very long and we hope to go out and do more soon. We have organized two full days of roof repair but still the list grows and grows.

The H&G have also begun a solid relationship with another group of Young Leaders from Khayelitsha called the Friends of Daniel (FOD). They are planning camps and service projects together and have come to visit each other often. They have had a total of 7 events together just over the last 3 months and can’t seem to get enough of each other! They really have connected in many different ways and will continue to strengthen each other, I am sure. The staff Facilitator of the FODs is also a very close friend of mine, so I enjoy that we are seeing more of each other also.

In the month of June we also had our first annual Youth Leaders Training Retreat. Jenny and I realized that all of our programs are partially or completely run by youth. This is exactly as it should be; however, we had given no real formal training to these leaders and much of what we expect from them we had not been clear enough about. SO!! We stole them away for four nights and trained them all together! Youth Leaders from all our Performing Arts Programs, Visual Arts Programs, H&G, Sharing Views, the Prayer team, all the team captains from our sports teams and the Adventure Leaders. We were about 32 in total. It was completely mind blowing, not only did they learn so much and stay engaged and active in the learning throughout the week, they bonded! As leaders from many different programs they were meeting each other for the first time, some of them, but because they discovered that they shared the same passion to see the youth of Kayamandi change and were committed to the same things, they immediately drew strength from one another and became close. To see them connected and proud of themselves and their fellow leaders, standing together, strong together, was really amazing. We treated them as leaders and geared ALL the learning to equipping them to lead and help others. The feel of the camp was totally different than any other camp we have done. They were not there from themselves! They were there for the kids that they are leading, the ones that they were helping to get off the street, leave their gang, stop drinking, start going to school again, stop sleeping around and start to value themselves and their future as people created and loved by God. And they got it, they really got it and they got passionate about changing their community together! It was truly an amazing time and I pray and hope that we will have the resources to do this every year. It was very special, unlike anything we have done before. We used alot of the ALICT Level I material; it was like a mini ALICT.

Speaking of ALICT, I have also had the opportunity to spend extra time with the class of 09 as they are training now. They are, as in the years previous, absolutely amazing people. Students from Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, DRC (Congo), USA, South Africa, India, Paraguay, Gambia, Cuba, Honduras, Brazil, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Jamaica, Uganda, Malawi, Indonesia, Romania, and many more places—all living together and learning together for 3 months. Every time I visit I get to hear more of the special life stories, community work, faith and the perspectives that they have gathered working in their respective cultures.

I hope things are not too warm that side. Blessings and love to all of you. I will have to return home to renew my visa toward the end of the year, so I hope to visit with you all, share more stories and hear all of yours.
Love, Heather

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Good News!

Winter has arrived and with it the cold and flu season. We are giving alot more food out this winter than last thanks to an increased contribution from a donor. I enjoy the winter much more than the summer, but that is because there are no leaks in my roof. Many many people here have water coming into their shack, it is close to impossible to stay warm when you are wet. I am hoping that some of the teams that come out to help this winter can water proof shacks for us.

If you have not heard, I have purchased a car!!! And it has truly changed my life in many positive ways. I am able to help in many difficult circumstances and seem to be using it daily to help individuals and families in the community. It, of course, helps me as well. Because I live in the same community I work in, getting a real break is very difficult. Having the car lets me participate in church stuff, dinner with friends and has generally made life much easier than it has been. Having the freedom to go to the beach on Saturday or the doctor any time I need to. There are thousands of ways that it has and will help me and others. I am excited that people feel free to request things from me when they need them, this shows that they are comfortable with me and I am really grateful to have the means to help them in this way.

The work here is still eternal, in more ways than one : ). We are going to open a safe house for teen girls the first week of July. This is very very exciting. As you know I have experience working with teen girls in difficult circumstances and have wanted to see this happen in Kayamandi for more than a year. The home that opens in July can accommodate six girls. It will be the first of six homes to be built here to give shelter to children and youth that have no other alternative. We have been working closely with Child Welfare and liaised with other more experienced organizations to ensure that the set-up of the homes is done well and according to government regulations. With the help of child welfare and our own program managers we have found four girls for the house as well as safe temporary placement for them until we are ready to move them in. We have also secured a special caregiver for the girls. I have had the opportunity to work closely with three of the four girls and hope to continue to build a relationship of trust with all the girls who we have in the home.

In addition to other projects, I am currently writing up the policy and procedures for the safe house as well as behavior agreements/contracts for the girls and job description for the caregiver. Things are always busy and there is never enough time, but I continue to enjoy what I do, rain or shine and am grateful to be a part of the lives of these people and to have them a part of mine.

New Happenings

This was written at the begining of April, but I could not get it to post!! So here it is...

Just a brief update regarding what we have been up to at Kuyasa in the last few weeks. Most of you know that I was given the opportunity to go home and visit as well as speak at the Women’s retreat and Bible study in February. From this ministry and time of connection there have been approximately 720 Bibles donated for youth attending Kuyasa programs.

This has been a very special gift to the youth here. Many have never had the opportunity to own their own Bibles. Bibles are considered books for adults only and a child or young person is considered ridiculous and thinking too highly of him or herself if they are wanting a Bible of their own. Bibles are used primarily by pastor’s but some “spiritual men and women have them. Some of the kids are hiding their Bibles so they are not ridiculed in their home, but they are so glad to have them.

We have been running summer camp here in April, the last few weeks of the hot season. The kids are out of school for the Easter holiday and we have had up to 300 per day on site for games, food, art and craft projects, dramas and puppet shows. It has been a mad and crazy fun filled time! Our new sports fields are also under construction ( not the best mix with so many children!) we have poured the cement for the new basketball court and are excited to open things up soon and get as many youth here making use of them as possible.

We have found a new assistant for Pumla with the sponsorship program and are making quick headway on the development and administrative details regarding the Safe House for teenage girls that will open in the first week of July. We have a strong candidate for the house mother position but are still really struggling to find funding to pay her. We have the house, land and construction paid for (donated) and there is a great need for girls to have a safe place to stay, but without a caregiver we will be unable to open. Please pray that we will find the right girls, that are truly in need and that our partnership with the child welfare department will continue to improve.