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