Monday, December 19, 2011

A weekly 'breath of fresh air' at Sonstraal Hospital

(This blog entry was written by Monte Christo Miqlat's recent guest, Jeanne Bayles. Please enjoy her view of one of the areas where MCM reaches into the community. Thank you, Jeanne, for living out the verses that you site at the end of this blog entry!).

This being my fifth trip to South Africa, I was very much looking forward to revisiting Sonstraal Hospital – a place where men, women and children are cared for who have TB and must be treated in a hospital setting.

I accompanied Pam Gass and Cathy Sias, two volunteers who have so faithfully served each week bringing a craft, a Bible story and a sweet treat. Most importantly these two women encourage other women who are in need of a kind word, a gentle touch and the encouragement that comes from sharing the love of Jesus.

One of the most beautiful displays of love I have witnessed was what I saw at Sonstraal Hospital today. There was an elderly patient sitting on the stoop looking as if she didn't feel well. One of the younger patients lovingly sat at her feet and rubbed her feet and legs with lotion as she gently spoke to her. She lived out the attitude of the very craft we created today...an angel.

As I witnessed this, I was reminded of the passage in Matthew 25:40 which reads, "Then those sheep are going to say "Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you? Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me--you did it to me.'

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Year end activities

For those who have lived in Paarl, you know that December brings closure. Schools, programs, sports leagues, small groups, it seems like everything starts wrapping up for the holidays. It's the same in our ministry. Last Friday we held a wonderful staff get together to talk about 2011 and what we've been able to accomplish. It's a rare event that our entire staff can get together but 46 of us were able to gather at Tiffany's for our year-end wrap up. Each staff member received a certificate of accomplishment as we have met a high percentage of our goals and objectives for the year. Take a look at how much we've grown!!! Isn't that a great looking group? - we can't tell you how blessed we feel to work with such amazing, wonderful, caring people!
Then, a few days later we held our Pre-school graduation. These young ones really put on a show for us. The highlight was clearly the Michael Jackson dance routine by the boys that had the entire room howling... now it's time for a long summer break before many of these kids start real school in January! Congratulations to Glenay, Surita and the staff for a job well done.

Community support breakfast

The morning of 17th November was very special for Monte Christo Miqlat. Local restaurant Schoongezicht hosted a community breakfast that was attended by over 50 community and business leaders. Each of these men and women had been invited by our Board Members to hear about the impact we've had on our community this past year. The numbers are significant... as of 14 November there were: 889,200 meals served, over 2,500 children in sports programs, 275 homeless fed each week and 65 put in jobs weekly, over 400 people per week being cared for at Tiffany's Center and over 375 each week at Lukhanyo. Add in the continuing care at Bowy House, our Leadership Development programming and the school holiday meals and programs and the picture is clear. We're making a difference.
The sad news that we shared with those present was the fact that our R1.9 million funding from the South African Lotto was being eliminated for 2012. Simply put, we were asking for help. If we're going to continue with this level of service for the poor, we need to replace that funding. The initial response after the breakfast has been encouraging. A lot of people want to help. We live in a wonderful community and at times like this, we are reminded of that fact. We are beginning to understand that if we work together, nobody in our community has to go without ways to receive help. Please continue to pray for us as we work hard to rebuild our funding base without a need for the Lotto support.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

From a runaway to a community role model!

We would like to introduce to you Ursula Plaatjies. Just 21 years old, Ursula has gone through a long, hard road to get to the amazing place that she is today. Raised by a single mother, Ursula’s mother died when she was just 15 years old. As anyone would imagine, it was a very hard time for her. Although she was taken in by her Aunt Susie and Caroline, it was a difficult environment for her. She said ‘she had a lot of loneliness sitting inside of her.’ Unfortunately, she became a ‘runaway’ kind of girl…just wanting to be somewhere where she could be by herself. But she would always return to her aunt’s home in the end. A self-proclaimed tomboy, Ursula was always the girl that was playing soccer in the streets when she was younger. At 17, she heard that there were some ‘club’ soccer teams being put together in Paarl East. She decided to go after the opportunity…a big turning point in her life. She fell in love with being a part of a team, and said that it became her family (she is pictured here with her team...back row, fifth from the right). As she became more and more involved, she found that she wasn’t as sad anymore…not dwelling as often on the fact that she did not have a mother or a father.

In July of 2010, Ursula said that she was visited by an angel from America. For two weeks, Ursula had the opportunity to work side by side with Hayley McNeil (see earlier blog story posted on July 27, 2011), and was a part of helping to create a 2 ½ by 10 meter giant mural that is now displayed at the entrance to our MCM Sports Park in Paarl East (they were even featured in the Paarl Past that week...pictured left). In Ursula’s words, she was so blessed by her time with Hayley. She said “Hayley was the first American that took the time to invest in an African kid like her.” She also said that in a way, Hayley was an answer to the prayers she had been praying to God.

Through her club team, as well as this mural painting experience, Ursula started thinking more about her future. She decided that she wanted to 1) go to university, 2) teach kids how to work with paint, and 3) be a coach and mentor to other kids as they engaged in sport. Throughout 2011, Ursula has been an active volunteer in our Coaching 1000 program in our Sports and Recreation ministry (learn more about our Coaching 1000 Program at http://www.mcmmiqlat.com/youth-at-risk), and spends time every school day in 3 different primary schools. She is involved in providing fitness training in the physical education classes, hands on instruction in the Arts and Culture section as well as Life Orientation segment. And she works closely with the teachers in grading students on their performance as well.

Additionally, Ursula has been working towards a Human Resources degree, and just finished taking exams for her Computer Skills and Communications classes. She is 6 months into a 3 year program, and looks forward to completing her HR certificate someday. Twice a week, she volunteers in our community gym at Tiffany’s Community Care Center, instructing members how to train properly. By far, one of her favorite responsibilities is creating the monthly ‘theme’ banners at Tiffany’s such as the one pictured here…”God is Love.”

Indeed, Ursula has been experiencing God’s love in a big way. We are blessed to have her as a part of our Monte Christo Miqlat family.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Celebrating our partner of 3 years...PSFA!

Since 1958, for more than 50 years, the Peninsula Schools Feeding Association (PSFA) has been providing meals to hungry children in primary, secondary and special-needs schools in the Western Cape Province. In November 2008, Monte Christo Miqlat became one of PSFA’s partners. Rikus Nieuwenhuis, Operations Manager for PSFA shares that "our dry ingredients are delivered to Monte Christo Miqlat's Drakenstein Food Center where their friendly staff prepare the meals according to our requirements and guidelines. Deliveries of warm meals are made daily to 2,371 learners in 15 identified schools in the Boland and northern suburbs" most of which do not receive government funding. The meals are prepared by Monte Christo Miqlat's night shift (which operates from 23:00 until 8:00) and include a variety of nutritious ingredients such as samp & beans, soya, vegetables and rice, pilchards and samp and fresh fruit like apples, oranges, or other kinds of fruit donated by nearby farmers. Every morning at 6:30, a courier picks up buckets with prepared food and distributes these buckets to the aforementioned schools. We are blessed to be in partnership with PSFA as we work together to feed so many children every day. For more information about our partner, Peninsula Schools Feeding Association, go to http://www.psfa.org.za.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Who says you have to be young to have fun?

Although the original target group for our Community Care Centers was primarily children, there is a growing group of elderly who have been frequenting Tiffany's Center in Paarl East and Lukhanyo in Mbekweni and having a GREAT time! There are 25 ladies between the ages of 55 and 83 who are regularly meeting at Tiffany's. Tuesday's are gym day, where the women spend time raising their heart rates on the bikes, weight machines and group calisthenics and then end their class with a little stretching and toning. Other days you will find them sewing and needle pointing anything from necklaces and earrings to simple clothing and tablecloths.
Their counterparts in Mbekweni, although a smaller group of women, have been getting quite industrious and crocheting and knitting beautiful jackets and sweaters similar to the ones pictured here. Just this month they began branching out and have been making beautiful, intricate beaded necklaces...the likes that would rival anything that you would see in the popular craft markets.
The women at Tiffany's also participate in regular events such as a the first Granny's Talent Show that took place on August 27th (during Women's Month). The ladies shared that one of the funniest talents that day was when one of the women shared a humorous poem drawing a comparison between arthritis and a boyfriend and had lines like "It chooses to be around all the time." According to the rest of the women, everyone was laughing hysterically. Additionally, several of these women participated in the Spar Fun Walk which took place on Heritage Day...September 24th. They have become so fit that several walked away with Gold Medals for their age bracket. So, let these women be an inspiration to us. You don't have to be a kid to have fun!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Voucher Project...the constructive alternative

The Voucher Project is a new initiative of our Homeless Care ministry, which provides food and work to the homeless people in the Paarl area. Residents of Paarl and visitors to our beautiful town keep the homeless on the streets by giving money into their begging hands. A little over two months ago, our Homeless Care team launched The Voucher Project, which was designed to empower the general public and give them a more constructive solution when approached by a person begging for money. Instead of giving money, an individual can give a voucher (booklets of 5 vouchers are available at many participating outlets throughout Paarl for R30 per booklet) which a homeless person can exchange for a meal or an article of clothing. The support with which this initiative has been embraced by the people of Paarl is overwhelming and in the two months since this initiative was launched, there have been over 3,750 vouchers sold. The voucher is also creating opportunities for a homeless person to be introduced to our other Homeless Care initiatives, exposing them to relationship programs that aim to restore and empower them. Above all, this positive response from the people of Paarl demonstrates the willingness of so many to make a difference and to help their fellow man. Our Homeless Care team realizes that there is no quick fix to the problem of homelessness. Now that this project has taken hold, the challenge is to maintain momentum and expand our efforts to deal with the root of the homeless problem in Paarl. A large part of the lasting success will be to give back dignity to participants of the Homeless Care program through employment. The age-old saying of "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" is particularly relevant when trying to effect sustainable change on our streets. Very soon through The Voucher Project, the Homeless Care team plans to launch two job creation projects in Paarl to achieve this goal. We look forward to sharing news in the near future about The Voucher Project Garden Services and The Voucher Project Car Wash.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bowy House kids blessed by Occupational Therapist

We are delighted to introduce Eleen van der Merwe to you! Eleen is a licensed Occupational Therapist through whom we have been blessed to be able to provide individual, specialized therapy for our kids. In the picture to the right, Eleen is helping one of our children who we were told might never ever walk. Eleen is convinced that he will! She is skilled at positioning a child to play in such a way that the child's inner motivation urges him or her to move. This helps to normalize abnormal muscle tone, build up coordination and control, and strengthen through repetition. Even simple things like allowing a child to feed themselves (as pictured above) will help to develop some of the skills that can later be built upon for more challenging skill learning like crawling and walking. Eleen has designed an individual plan for each one of our children, and her efforts have paid off in a big way. Many of our children who could not crawl are now crawling and pulling themselves up on furniture! Look out world...they will be walking soon!
Eleen also coordinates group activities for small groups of our children. Through activities, such as finger painting (pictured to the left) we aim to develop our children's social interaction and behavioral skills with the other children in our care. These activities also stimulate development that will prepare them for pre-school activities which will positively influence school readiness later on.
Lastly, Eleen also provides training to our staff. Pictured right are our House Mother and a caregiver, who are being given a demonstration using dolls. This training is so very valuable, because the children can be stimulated throughout the day, and not just when our OT comes for her scheduled time with them. This additional stimulation reinforces the work that Eleen has already done with the children, and makes the job more pleasurable for our staff while passing on valuable skills that they can use now and later. What a thrill and blessing to be able to report such wonderful progress! We appreciate you, Eleen!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One year ago...

A year ago at this time, Monte Christo Miqlat had a very special visitor. She came with her servant's heart and her gift as an artist. Her goal...to leave us with a mural of some kind to share the story of one of our ministries. Well, that she did and more! Pictured here is Hayley McNeil from America. She is standing next to one of our Sports and Recreation re-purposed 40 foot containers, which serves as a changing room for our youth soccer teams. In this mural, which is mounted to the container, we have 3 scenes. We have young children playing soccer in the streets phasing into an older youth practicing drills phasing into professionals playing in the World Cup...Greenpoint Stadium, Capetown in the background. We are grateful for Hayley's work of art, and the imprint she left behind. In addition to what she left behind, she took something back with her. Here are some final impressions of her trip.

It's a curious thing that happens. It seems that when we get to a place where no one knows us, we become most ourselves. Traveling to Africa was an incredible departure from my normal everyday life. The chance to see, touch, and do things that I had only previously experienced via my couch & flat screen, opened my world immensely.

The western world pumps adopt-a-child advertisements into our homes so often that the images of hungry people and stick thin babies become just another 30 second blip we forget 30 seconds later. American parents are quick to throw out the "starving-children-in-Africa" phrase to a child who refuses to finish their lunch. But I have been there. I have met those kids. I have shared meals and time and hugs with those people. And I have realized something vital. The only difference between myself and any S. African living in a one room shack is simply the fact that I was born a middle-class American.

Their way of life is different from ours. You don't see as much evidence of the rat race and the Jones's. Hope is a thing pushed to the side in favor of meeting basic needs. Families are broken by disease, distance, and desperate actions. Yet there still seems to be joy and contentment in even the poorest circumstances. Every place I walked, a smile was returned with a smile. Each person I met took a genuine interest in knowing my name, my story. People were kind, helpful, and reassuring. There was less focus on self.

Ubuntu.

It literally translates as 'human-ness' and is a common philosophy throughout Africa. In essence, it is the belief that we are all interconnected. No man can exist in total isolation. What I do with my time, talents, money and relationships always affects someone else. After spending time in Paarl the ache of poverty became real to me. But upon returning home, I realized a few things:

~ Just because you live in a smaller space, own less, eat less, and travel less that does not make me better than you. We are equally deserving and loved by God.

~ While I cannot adopt, save, or feed every person who is born into a life with less, I can re-evaluate how I use my treasure. Spend less time accumulating & complaining and more time giving.

~ If just one life is better, easier, or more hopeful because I have touched it, that is success.

~Living in this country is a gift. There are people that I now personally care about who will never have the opportunities that I daily take for granted.

Hanging in our home is a giant wall map with pins stuck in all the places we have been. They are color coded - Blue for my husband, White for me, and Red for spots we have seen together. Blue pins far outnumber all the other colors. But today I gained a couple on him. To others, they are just 2 white pins on a map. But to me, they are 2 weeks of cultivating my heart and regaining perspective on my life.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mandela Day in Paarl

18 July 2011 was Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday. In 2009, his birthday was declared Mandela International Day and is a commemoration of 67 years spent by Nelson Mandela in the effort to create a more stable, peaceful and loving South Africa for all to live in. This day was established not as a public holiday, but as a day to honor his legacy and his values through volunteering and community service. Individuals are encouraged on this day to volunteer 67 minutes of service...one minute for each year of service by Nelson Mandela. This past Monday, Monte Christo Miqlat staff and the staffs of Pioneer Foods, Agripack, Basson & Blackburn, Drakenstein Municipality, and Frost & Sullivan joined hands to serve in several of our ministries. Their time was spent loving on and providing donations to the children at Bowy House, food preparation at our Drakenstein Food Center, and cleaning at these two facilities as well as Tiffany's Community Care Center.
In addition, Marvin White, our chef at the Food Center, was also invited to have a 67 min food session at the Drakenstein Prison with top chefs Jenny Morris, Reuben Riffel and Marco Radebe. This combined group of food masters cooked for three groups of 67 people. We were blessed to be working alongside all of these amazing people in Paarl. We look forward to serving with them soon again. You can view additional pictures of people serving on our Facebook page. Just look for us under MCM Miqlat.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

FACED-Feed A Child Every Day

We are in the middle of our 3-week winter school holiday in Paarl. Here, like many other rural communities, the reality is that many of the children in our most needy communities often receive their most substantial meal through their government (or private) sponsored meal program at school. Holiday times present the biggest threat to the nutrition of these hundreds of undernourished children. FACED stands for Feed A Child Every Day. The acronym was coined when key leaders in the Paarl community had a series of discussions last year revolving around community needs...particularly for children...during the World Cup. Monte Christo Miqlat decided that one of our main areas of focus needed to be food, and so we piloted a holiday feeding program during that longer World Cup holiday. The program was so well received, that we have worked to raise funds to continue offering food during the normal school holidays in 2011. Thanks to World Emergency Relief-Holland, Pioneer Foods and other private funders we are feeding over 1,800 children per day, 5 days a week during this school holiday (June 27th-July 15th) at 8 different community sites. We are blessed to be living out the vision of our Community Nutrition program...No child in our community goes to bed hungry.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Youth Day with the Dream Team...

Youth Day in South Africa (16 June) commemorates the start of the Soweto Riots in 1976 that were sparked by the government decree that all instruction in black schools would be held in Afrikaans. The holiday today celebrates the youth in South Africa... and the fact that they are the future of this country.
This year the Dream Team, along with other members of our staff and the community, held a Youth Day celebration at the Tiffany's Center. There were speakers, games, food and though the weather was bad outside... the atmosphere was wonderful inside!
With events like this, our working relationship with the Magnolia and Klein Nederberg community is getting stronger and stronger. We are blessed to have such a wonderful place in the middle of this community and the messages that were delivered by the Dream Team really hit home! If you read through these signs, you'll see the things that our kids have to deal with on a daily basis. The members of the Dream Team are working to help make a stand against these problems in the community. What a great way to truly celebrate "Youth Day."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Happy Ending...A New Beginning


Meet the Van Rooyen family...Quentin, Anneldi, Amy and Lara...who recently grew by one member with the addition of Luvo. If you have been following our blog, you might recall our posting about our former Bowy House resident, Luvo, who at the time of THAT posting (Feb. 16th) was moving into another children's home. Enter the Van Rooyen family...who live here in Paarl. After serving as missionaries in Mozambique 12 years ago, and learning about the plight of so many children who lost parents either to the war or to various diseases, they made the decision back then that if the right opportunity would ever present itself, that they would seriously consider adopting...even after having two children of their own. This in hopes of giving a child a home and a future otherwise impossible due to circumstances out of that child's control. Due to a great deal of prayer, and a number of different circumstances (divine interventions), Luvo began to spend weekends with the Van Rooyen family shortly after he entered the other children's home. After several successful weekend visits, he was allowed to stay with the family for the long Easter break ...vacationing with them and their cell group for the whole last week in April in the Karoo. Then on May 9th, the Van Rooyens, armed with much paperwork, went to the Magistrate in the hopes of attaining full foster care of Luvo. Anneldi shares that the magistrate asked just a few questions of she and Quentin, and within 15 minutes they were joyfully on their way out the door with full foster care responsibilities of Luvo. They will continue this process in the hopes of fully adopting Luvo into their family as soon as the good Lord makes it possible. Luvo has settled into his new home quite nicely, and thoroughly enjoys his 13 and 11 year old sisters, Amy and Lara. They are adoring big sisters, and are having great fun with a busy, fun loving little brother. Anneldi says that she believes that this is one of the most important decisions that they have made as a family and that they trust that they will embrace it with all their hearts. All of us at Monte Christo Miqlat have no doubt that this is where Luvo was meant to be, and we are just thrilled with how God has provided such a loving family and home for Luvo...a new beginning. God bless you Van Rooyen family!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Welcoming you to downtown Paarl

In the heart of Paarl is the Monte Christo Miqlat Coffee Shop. In addition to being a fully functioning restaurant, its unique purpose is to serve as a gathering place where members of the central community are made aware of the wide range of needs that people have throughout Drakenstein. It is a popular gathering place for men's and women's bible studies, and you can often see several groups of youth enjoying it after school in the afternoons. The large upper room serves as a perfect venue for meetings and conferences, and the prayer room is active all day long with people of all ages. Some of our unused space has recently had a facelift, as we have recently joined hands with Charlie's Coffee Shop. Now, you can find a wide range of Christian books and DVD's that you can rent and enjoy in your own home. Meet your coffee shop staff...Ameaka, Barbara, Gamu, Jasmine and Anestene. They are all very special people...some of whose stories are similar to many of the people that we serve.
One of them whom I spent time with recently (and ask
ed to remain anonymous) made some very poor choices in her teenage years. After getting involved with a partying group of friends, she also got mixed up with a drug using boyfriend. The downward spiral continued, and she found herself pregnant at a very young age. After being banished from her family for a while, she spent some time at the Salvation Army in Paarl where she connected with our ministry and learned the skill of making furniture. Later, she joined the coffee shop staff, and has completely turned her life around as she learned how to work with food and wait tables. Some of her dreams include getting her driver's license, owning her own home and settling into a nice, church community where there is no judgment and she can feel at home. She is definitely at home at the coffee shop! We hope that you will feel welcome, too!