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, as well as establishing our School Leaving Youth programme.
As we reflect on the last 14 years, we are so grateful to our partners, staff, and community members for making our work possible. Here’s to another 14 years of changing hearts in our city.