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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.

MES Gqeberha kicks-off Soup Outreach programme for the homeless

More than fifty (50) homeless people living on the streets are touched through the MES Gqeberha Soup Outreach programme twice a week. A team that includes shelter clients and our final year student social workers has helped us feed the hungry on the streets every Monday and Friday since the beginning of October 2021. “We continue to live our purpose by serving and reaching some of the homeless people exactly where they are, “ says MES Gqeberha’s Marketing Intern, Tshepang Mofokeng. “This helps us to tell them more about the services at MES, conduct some much needed counselling and share the Word of God without any pressure. This then means when they reach out to MES, they are ready to do so.” MES Gqeberha, would like to extend our deepest appreciation to Patmos Church for partnering with us by donating bread for the South Outreach. A big thank you also to Melda who has partnered with us by hosting another Soup Outreach for the children based in Clearly Park.

From homeless to Supervisor, Langanani openly tells of his journey from tragedy to triumph

From homeless to Supervisor, Langanani tells of his journey from tragedy to triumph Langanani Muleyo saw his life take a turn for the worse when he wound up on the streets after having lost his job. Originally from Johannesburg, the father of two said that his family tried to support him at first but after more than two years without a job, their ability to help him dwindled. “Well, I’ve been through a lot, starting from being on the street.” “I was renting a back room of around R1100 per month when I lost my job in 2017. I couldn’t manage to pay rent. My siblings had families of their own and could not continue supporting me, said Langanani.” “Then, things got worse. I started having relationship problems, and It’s been six years since I last saw my eldest son. Things became too much, so I left Jo’burg to start afresh somewhere else,” he continued. When Langanani arrived in Cape Town, he went to Safe Space, a MES night shelter in Bellville. There he learned that he had to queue, every day, to get a place to sleep. That meant that his space was not guaranteed as it was accessed on a first-come-first-served basis so that people are treated fairly. “I had to be there by 14h00, or I would not have a place to sleep that night,” said Langanani. At Safe Space, it costs R10.00 per day for a bed and R2.00 per day for a locker, a total, R12.00 per day. To afford that, Langanani would survive on bread and peanut butter. “It was difficult. That is why I went to see a social worker at MES after the second month of being at Safe Space. And that is when I was referred to GROW, a job skills rehabilitation programme that MES offers. “When I started there, I was earning R70.00 per four-hour shift. That is the opportunity they give to people, equally. Usually, I wouldn’t get more than two to three shifts per week. Getting three shifts per week was a bonus because getting that money would help me survive. I would have money for bread and the R12.00 I needed to secure my spot at Safe Space every night,” Langanani shared. One day, Langanani got to the Safe Space shelter in Bellville, where they told him that the shelter was full. “I didn’t know where to go, so I slept on the street. It was so scary, that I just thanked God when I saw that dawn was approaching,” Langanani said. The second time that the shelter was full by the time that Langanani got there, he was too scared to sleep on the street so, he snuck into a local park where the security caught him just after midnight. “At that moment, I had only R40.00 in my pocket and a payslip for the R140.00 that I have earned from working my two shifts that week. I showed it to them and eventually, they allowed ...

4 ways we’re making an impact this year – and how you can help 

We're happy to share that with your support, we’ve been able to make a profound impact in the lives of those who need it most. Here’s a snapshot of the programmes that have had the most impact, since the start of the current financial year. Work, Restore, GROW We have offered 5 645 shift opportunities to 983 people through our GROW programme. The programme provides access to a job rehabilitation process for homeless and unemployed adults. GROW leads to skills development and the ability to earn a living, restore their dignity, and self-worth. 76 Clients are participating in the Bright Start training, 59 received job interview assessments, while eight clients found temporary job placements as a result of this programme.           Care, Play, Learn Our After School Programme creates a safe space for children to learn, play and receive a nutritious meal. We saw roughly 115 primary school learners attend across our two venues. In between terms, 56 children attended two holiday camps that were hosted in April and May this year. The goal was to encourage their spiritual development and to promote a spirit of unity among them.           Shelter: The vouchers are working! We’re so encouraged to share that with your help, we are reducing self-harm on the streets as more and more people are making use of our Safe Space shelter each night. 60% Of our female clients pay for their stay with vouchers each night, while 57% of their male counterparts do the same.   Help us do more   So far, we have reached 61% of our income target for the year. Help us to reach 100% before the end of February 2022.   Get involved with MES Cape Town, click HERE to donate.

Recycling: Bulk collection – it’s a game changer

The MES Safe Space in Bellville is home to a recycling project that benefits those most in need: the homeless. We’ve all seen people gathering recyclable materials to make an income. Every day, those who collect these, especially the homeless, travel long distances to gather items to sell; be it a box, paper, or aluminium. What many don’t realise is that gathering these materials requires a lot of walking, in search of something to collect. That ends up isolating them even further. With this project, the goal is for MES to do bulk collections of recyclable materials from businesses and other organisations. In so doing, helping those who are already facing the solitude of homelessness, as they no longer have to walk such far distances to collect these recyclable goods. This initiative can enable people to collect three to four times as many recyclable materials as they would have done, had they been walking the streets, looking for pieces to collect. Thereby increasing their earning potential. To give this project an edge, the focus shifted from the usual recyclable materials, to include electronic waste and collecting at events, like seminars and conferences, thereby expanding our collection points. Currently, the project has attained the support of 14 businesses in total, who have allowed us to come and collect at their premises. Today, the trolley guys, who are collecting recyclable materials to sell them at the MES Buy-Back Centre, are still collecting at all those points. MES would like to thank our partners, the VRCID and GTP for their support in this initiative, as well as Langanani Muleyo, who is the supervisor and visionary behind our Buy Back Centre. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

MES celebrates 35 years amid a hybrid global webinar

The initial vision for MES was born in 1986 when the Johannesburg East Dutch Reformed Church started with an outreach programme that handed out food parcels to the homeless and unemployed community of Hillbrow. MES facilitates professional services to vulnerable or at risk individuals, families and communities. The  core services are implemented in each of four branches, depending on the need of the community and available  resources.

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