[notice]Last month Gateway News Volunteer Reporter Debbie Hemmens was inspired by an innovative youth development programme she discovered in George. In this report she shares her discovery of yet another visionary ministry to the needy in the city.[/notice]
George seems to be the place to be — how exciting that I found another wonderful ministry happening down in the Western Cape.
The roots of this ministry — Life Community Service (LCS) — go back to 2000 when Phillip and Maryna de Vries came to South Africa from the United States of America with Bishop Joseph Garlington. Maryna attended a Ladies Conference and someone from the conference took her to a Sunday School in a local community, as Maryna has a great passion for children.
There were between 35 and 45 children. The lady from a local church was involved with providing the children with sandwiches on Wednesdays and Sundays. There was an obvious need to confront the dilemmas and crises that the impoverished community was experiencing. Children would come off the street to a church service and not be able to concentrate. They realised this was due to lack of nutrition, and so providing food was the first and most basic need they had to address.
Maryna had a vision for a more holistic involvement with the children, and one year later, Life Community Services was registered as an NGO in George. The centre they used was a big shack where children came for the programmes they were running. The programme became more formalised and the ministry grew from the one shack-centre to the present six centres which are open from Monday to Friday to serve the community of children through life-skills teaching, Word and worship and a hot meal. In addition LCS have three 3 crèches, an after care facility (The Light House) and a foster home. All this activity takes place in Thembalethu and the other communities surrounding George.
In their outreach to children, LCS also get into home situations where there are child-headed families and devastation caused by HIV/AIDS. They deal with many abuse cases. During school holidays, they run a Holiday Programme which keeps the children busy and off the streets. They bring hope through the Gospel in all their programmes.
The vision statement of LCS, Touch a Life, Mend a Heart, rings true in all they do.
They offer such amazing services to the community through education and a feeding scheme where they can feed up to 1 500 people per day, and they continue to grow as the need is great. The community of George is involved and an integral part of this ministry. They have doctors offering their services for free, they also receive many donations of clothing, food and blankets. These are sorted and handed out where the need is greatest. There are about seven churches who are involved in different ways.
Their 5-classroom crèche is completely Christian based, and the parents are aware of this when they enrol in the program. The fees are fair and among the lowest in the community and include two meals. Parents buy into the program by attending parent meetings where LCS bring some kind of training. They donʼt believe that handouts alone are the way to go, as they realise there is no long term benefit to the people.
The staff is composed of 60 people who were, on the most part, previously unemployed, which makes for a huge monthly payroll. In looking for funding from corporates, their books are open to public inspection and they pride themselves in integrity and honesty when it comes to finances. Their fundraising is a walk of faith and they trust God for everything. They receive no funding from Social Welfare and all money is raised through donations and fundraising.
Some of the children who have been a part of Life Community Services have joined the year-long youth development programme run by RealStart in George. They recently saw a young man who had started with them as a boy with no dad. He is now married, has a job, two children and is doing really well. It is a wonderful thing to see the fruits of your labour!
LCS have started two sustainable projects — a garden project where they set up food gardens, sell seedlings and help others set up food gardens; and a development project for teenage girls along with a couple of older ladies, where they learn to sew, do crafts and art. The arts and crafts are sold at a stall at the Outeniqua Farmers Market and is available for purchase from their website.
Maryna pointed out an interesting fact, that there are Christian organisations at all entrance roads into George, and that the property they would like to purchase is at the entrance to the Township. They have been wanting to buy this property for 12 years and are leaving the outcome with God. The battle belongs to the Lord. They will continue to sow and know without a doubt that the harvest will come.
If you would like to donate to this worthy organisation, please contact Maryna through the following links. Visit the LIFE website for more information www.lifecommunity.co.za OR on Facebook under Life Community Services.
Debbie Hemmens : Realstart ‘ Teen Mentorship Programme’ Project director and facilitator. Involved in ministry positions in the church. Studied Residential Child Care. Passionate about restoring values and character in our current culture and giving a voice to the vulnerable in society. Strongly believes that “Together, we can make a difference.”