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Young heart changed and turned around for the better

  Rochihauno Ford (26) has been a participant in our GROW programme since April 2021. Unemployed, Ford approached us in search of help and received job rehabilitation support through GROW. Throughout his journey within the programme, Ford showed great potential, he was always on time and eager to learn. His stepfather unfortunately passed away last year, leaving him and his 2 siblings without financial support. Rochihauno enjoyed a special bond with his stepfather who was always there for him. His passing did not only put the family in a financially vulnerable situation but has also taken a massive emotional toll on them. Rochihauno returned to the centre, put in extra effort, worked harder than before and soon became a GROW team leader. MES has been a place of spiritual and emotional support for him and has arranged for counselling to help him through the healing process. We are humbled by Ford’s personal journey and inspired by his resilience. He was awarded a place within the Public Employment Programme (PEP) as team supervisor. Today, his good work ethic and positive attitude has landed him a permanent position at the VRCID cleaning department.

87% off the street due to skills-for-jobs partnership

In a recent survey done by MES and our partners indicated that unemployment is one of the main contributors of homelessness in South Africa. To address the issue, the City of Cape Town Public Employment Programme (PEP) has teamed up with MES and 13 partner organisations. The programmes hopes to address homelessness through skills development. Our GROW programmes has become a key component of the PEP partnership. GROW is a job rehabilitation programme offered by MES. The programme provides the homeless and unemployed community with an alternative to aggressive begging and petty crimes. Five MES clients who participated in the programme have since become permanently employed as a result. The programme is designed to give our clients access to skills development and employment opportunities, like in-service training. The objective of this programme is underscored by the vision and mission of MES, which is to empower people holistically to live independent, sustainable, and meaningful lives. The hope of seeing homeless people build lives for themselves hinges on their ability to find and sustain jobs. Our goal is to see more people becoming permanently employed, so they can get off the streets for good. To find out more about PEP and how the programme continues to drive sustainable change within the homeless community of Cape Town, please read the LATEST SURVEY HERE.

Meet Senzo, a MES Outreach worker who supports the homeless in Cape Town

  "It humbles me, each day I meet people who have degrees and who wanted to be something in life, it happened to them."  - Senzo Madida, 21 Outreach Worker for MES Cape Town.  Outreach with MES entails going out on the street to find out where homeless people sleep, and to build relationships with them. The goal is to network and inform them about the services that we have to offer. "I go out and see where they are living and see why they are there", says Senzo, a MES Outreach Worker in Durbanville, who sees roughly 45-50 homeless people each week. According to Senzo, building relationships with those in need is key in getting them to trust you enough to accept help. To achieve this, Senzo works closely with officials at the City of Cape Town. As soon as they inform Senzo about new tents being pitched by the homeless, he accompanies them to where the need is, offering services and support to the homeless. "Most importantly, I build trust. We need to go on the street and tell those in need what we can do to help them. They need to be able to trust us enough to let us help them. Usually, we judge people without understanding what led someone into that situation", says Senzo. "Usually, the first thing that people need is an identity document, so that they can get a job. That's one of the first things that I assist them with", he continued. According to Senzo, anecdotally, almost all of the people who are on the streets in his area are from other parts of the country. Usually, they came to Cape Town in search of better opportunities. However, they don’t have any friends or family here, which leaves them with no support structure. In doing outreach, Senzo tells, you also come across those who were transferred to a prison in Cape Town from other parts of the country. Upon release, they're either too ashamed to return home, or their families flat-out reject them. Their chances of getting a job are exceedingly low because employers don't take kindly to criminal records. In his experience, Senzo has seen a cycle emerge among those released onto the street after having been in prison: "They live on the street for two weeks before being introduced to drugs, after that, the likelihood of them getting off the streets is very low indeed", Senzo elaborated. "There are also those who want to go back to prison because, after a month on the streets, they find that life was better in prison, so they commit other offences to go back", he added. For most people, getting off the street is very difficult. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication from both the outreach and social worker, and the homeless person in question, to make it happen. Senzo went on to share what the most profound impact that his job had on him was, saying: "it humbles me, each day ...

Happy birthday MES Cape Town: 9 wins over 14 years

At the outset, the Bellville Care Mission functioned as an outreach ministry before registering to operate as a non-profit organisation in 2005. During 2007 it became clear that MES Johannesburg and the Bellville Care Mission shared similar dreams and organisational cultures. This resulted in the merging of the two, where the Bellville Care Mission was registered as a MES Branch in March 2008. Since then, MES Cape Town has established a very strong outreach and social relief component that serves the immediate and short-term needs of the homeless and unemployed community. In 2013, LECA farm opened with the aim of teaching MES clients how to grow vegetables to sell at markets. This was the start of the container gardens. Off the back of this initiative, between 2014 and 2015, we launched the GROW job rehabilitation programme, where our clients are given work and skills development opportunities, in partnership with other organisations and businesses. Around that time, social work and occupational therapy services paved the way for the further expansion of vocational skills training and job placement in 2015. We also saw the LECA farm start operating with hydroponic tunnels and aquaponic systems. In 2016, MES Cape Town started providing services to the tenants of our sister company Madulammoho Housing Association (MHA), which exists to provide people with access to affordable housing opportunities. These included Social Work Services (SWSs) and was the start of youth nights as well as our educational holiday programmes for the children. Around May of 2017, MES Cape Town opened the doors to our step-down shelter, The Safe Space. This facility has since been addressing the enormous accommodation need for the homeless. In that year, the LECA farm also obtained funding for expansion. On the 28th of November 2018, the MES Bellville Safe Space was awarded a Bronze Certificate for Social Innovation. The Impumelelo Social Innovations Award Centre is a leading awards programme in South Africa, rewarding excellence and innovators who find creative solutions to public problems. The first after-school programmes (for primary school children) started operating in both Belhar and Scottsdene, on the 1st of February 2019, both of which are low-income estates. Monthly Coffee Clubs were also introduced to secondary school children in both estates. LECA farm is handed over to Streets Scape’s whose mission model is based on the rehabilitation of street people through veggie gardens. 2020 brought its own challenge and we quickly had to respond with the opening of emergency kitchens and shelters to cope with Covid-19 lockdown levels. By the end of 2020, we were able to establish our Parow and Durbanville Drop-in Centres, despite the challenges brought by the pandemic. Last year, on the 1st of February, we opened the door to our 2nd Phase Accommodation programme, which caters to rehabilitated homeless people who are ready to move on following job placement but cannot yet afford market-related accommodation. Until now, we have been focused on expanding our GROW Job Rehabilitation programme, while planning our first Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre, ...

“The dream of HR team is to see MES grow into other provinces,” says HR Manager

For the past 35 years, MES has relied on the servant hearts of its staff to carry out the commitment of serving the vulnerable community of the inner cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Kempton Park and Gqeberha. As an organisation which has grown over time to serve on a national level, it takes Human Resource (HR) expertise to ensure that the staff that serves at MES is dedicated to their work. The HR team at MES is responsible for recruitment, staff training, processing of monthly payroll, staff recognition and being the general staff support system. The team also acts as custodians of the processes and procedures of the organisation and ensure compliance to Labour Relations issues. “It is amazing to see the growth of the MES team over the years and especially the HR team. To realise that as a support service to the Focus Groups, we are not just clocking into work but we are here serving our staff so that they can better serve the community. We especially thank God for strengthening and enabling our staff to stand on their commitment to serve particularly in this difficult time,” says Portia Nyoka, National HR Manager As the year comes to an end, the dream of the HR team is to see MES grow into other provinces, where the help and services of the organisation are also needed. However, a dream that is closer to the heart of the team is to be able to get a wellness partner that can conduct an Employee Wellness Programme for the staff of MES. Working within the NPO sector means that the organisations do not always have funds for perceived-simple things like a team-building activity or even gifting staff with a cup or jacket. These small initiatives create a sense of belonging for any work environment and ensure that staff love coming to work. This is the area that partners and donors can play a big role in supporting the NPO sector to carry out the work they do in the community. “The past year has been a difficult time for everyone, as a team we have learned that we need each other to stand and move forward. It has been encouraging to have the committed partners that have supported MES and the continuous dedication from our staff to change people’s lives,” ends Nyoka.

Homeless twice, and I survived twice – because of MES

Growing up in Benoni and raised by his grandmother and his parents, *Bheki had a good childhood and was fortunate enough to study further after high school. While he was studying, he unfortunately had to deal with the devastating news of losing his mother at the hands of his father and his father being sentenced to prison. On completion of his tertiary education, *Bheki landed a full time job and moved to stay closer to his father with hopes of mending their relationship. Upon the release of his father from prison, the future of their relationship looked bright and promising, however his father couldn’t heal from the guilt he felt and resorted to taking his own life. Losing his second parent sent *Bheki on a downward spiral which is how he found himself living on the streets of Johannesburg. In 2010 he made his way to the MES Ekurhuleni shelter in Doornfontein. “They have helped me – twice in my life. Although I have recently found a job as a security officer, I am currently still staying at the MES Kempton Park shelter until I am on my feet again and able to afford my own accommodation and necessities,” says *Bheki. A few weeks into his stay at the shelter, our social workers assisted *Bheki with his application in a security officer course at Stallion Security. *Bheki completed the course and received his Grade C certification. Thereafter, he moved out of the shelter, found a job and started his life again. A few years down the line, life presented him with challenges he couldn’t overcome, which left him homeless. *Bheki remembered MES and the help he had received when he had his first downfall. He heard about the MES Kempton Park branch and started looking for it as he was then living on the streets of the East Rand. “I am very grateful for everything that MES has done for me and I really hope they can help more homeless people to get their lives in order,” says Bheki. *Bheki then came to the MES Kempton Park shelter during 2021, where he started attending the various life skills and spiritual enrichment workshops. The commitment to the betterment of his life helped him to start applying for jobs again and eventually found employment as a security officer. “My message to the currently unemployed and homeless people of Kempton Park and around the country, is that if you really want to change your life, you must take the first step! There is help out there, there are organisations and people who are willing to help people like us, but you have to believe and want to see your life change,” says *Bheki with conviction. *Bheki – not his real name

Dance for Purpose with the Joshuas

At the beginning of November, the MES Joshua Youth Leadership Programme (the Joshuas) and the New Direction teenagers were so excited to finally get to perform their incredible stage production in front of a live audience at the Melville Kruis Gemeente Church. The young people have been attending dance classes over 2020 / 2021 without being able to perform in front of a live crowd, because of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations. Although this has been tough on them, it has also allowed the young people to learn about patience and for their dance teachers Alta Krige and Liza Coetzee to have more time for rehearsals and to perfect the performances. This year’s production, named Dreamers Beware; a story about having dreams, losing dreams and meeting the dream weaver, was the 10th musical production. Initially, the dance group was called "A2J" when it first started in the inner city at Irene Church and since then has evolved to "Dance 4 Purpose". “The reason why we changed the name was that we wanted the dancers to feel that they were making a difference while performing, and not only to their inner-city peers but also those in the churches that they get to perform in. This gives them a sense of purpose, a sense of why they dance. There is a deeper meaning that they are telling their story while having fun. It is a calling to teach,” says Liza Coetzee. Through dancing, young people are learning a new skill every day. Not all of them will want to be professional dancers, but it is about more than learning to dance, they are learning to tell their story, they are learning responsibility and respect and they are earning it too. Dance 4 Purpose is exactly what it says, it is about them discovering their purpose, whilst having a safe and fun space to do it in. Liza says that the dream is to grow this initiative beyond dance; “We wish to add more forms of art, which will enable the young people a bigger scope to express themselves and find their purpose. We are dreaming more for “Creating 4 Purpose”.  

MES stars of tomorrow

MES Johannesburg’s accredited Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres offer a safe, caring, healthy and well-supervised environment right in the heart of the inner city of Johannesburg. The pre-schools are located within reachable distances for convenience, in Hillbrow (Dinaledi Pre-school and Roly Poly Pre-school) and Fleurhof (Kids Academy Pre-school). This year we are delighted to have 105 students graduate from Grade R to join a primary school in 2022. This is a result of our dedicated teachers who work diligently to make sure that each child’s development is taken seriously. Our MES ECDs have accounted for at least one-hundred percent 100% pass rate of Grade R children with school readiness. This year’s graduation ceremonies were filled with excited parents and happy tears, because of the progress seen in the children, most of whom started with us at 6 months old. MES Johannesburg wishes all the Grade R children who recently graduated all the best as they enter the school phase.

Bidding farewell to Sharesse our MES agent of change

Sharesse Smith joined MES Gqeberha in 2013 as a volunteer and was later employed permanently as the shelter supervisor, responsible for clients’ intake and assessments. Sharesse is leaving MES to enjoy her retirement from the 5th of December 2021. “Whilst working at MES I have learned a lot about myself, serving others has really made me a better person. I have more compassion for people in need than I did before I came to MES. I also understand that we have different journeys in life and mine is not more important than the next person’s. I am very grateful to God for the opportunity to wake up every day to change people’s lives,” said Sharesse jovially. “The past few years have been incredibly rewarding, also on the professional front. I have worked in different places in the branch, from the shelter to the kitchen, to administration! I must say my favourite role has been to act as a mentor to my incredible colleagues who have found me in the branch. Showing them around and teaching them how we do things is always amazing, but also learning from them is so exciting. I believe that this branch is growing in the right direction and it is anointed to make a huge impact in our city. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to serve at MES Gqeberha,”  Sharesse adds. The team and shelter clients at MES Gqeberha are extremely grateful for Sharesse’s service over the years, we wish her plenty of well-deserved rest during her retirement. Our doors will always be open for you Sharesse!

MES Gqeberha welcomes new Operations Supervisor

“My introduction to MES Gqeberha was unconventional as I had to spend the first two weeks at home while the branch was under lockdown due to a serious outbreak of Covid cases,” writes new Operations Supervisor, Gary Wood. Through collaborations with churches and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Wood has predominantly been spearheading the goal to enlarge MES Gqeberha’s footprint to end the scourge of homelessness, poverty and hunger in the inner city. According to Wood, it’s been a privilege to serve alongside a group of final year university student social workers, who have been hard at work assisting with counselling, taking care of the elderly and helping with the soup outreach programme as part of their experiential learning. “Being responsible for our Safe Space shelters for men and women is really exciting as I also have the privilege to conduct daily devotions with the men,” said Wood, expanding on his responsibilities as the new Operations Supervisor. Gary is also responsible for the enterprise management of the branch. This means he gets to interact with our tenants who are renting space at our building for different businesses. Part of Gary’s exciting responsibilities is representing MES Gqeberha at the local Christian Networking Forum. Gary is a pastor who was ordained in The Salvation Army in 2003 and concluded his season in the ministry in 2010, because of employment opportunities that he felt called to explore. He continues to serve in the church as a Pastoral Elder in the Uitenhage Ministries – a network of Church and Ministry Leaders. Gary has been married to Elmien for 26 years and they are blessed with two sons; 20-year-old Caleb John who is a university student and 16-year-old Joshua Ian who is a Grade 10 learner.

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