HOW WE GOT HERE
We live in a land and a community of huge inequality. The gap between rich and poor is one of the widest in the world. In the area covered by our Clerpine Methodist Circuit [a radius of about 25kms around Pinetown] we have many of the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich. God has laid it upon our hearts that we have to do something in partnership with others to meet this massive need.
This stirring in our hearts began about six years ago. We tried to find a way forward and so attempted to learn and partner with a few organizations. None of this was successful until two and a half years ago we came across the Self Help Group Programme run by the Diakonia Council of Churches. There was an immediate connection between us and we knew that this was what we had been looking for. It would fit perfectly with the kind of environment where we needed to work. Self Help Groups [SHG’s] work with the poorest in the communities. Community Facilitators visit the homes of people with similar levels of need in a community. They invite them to enjoy an SHG and then begin to train them how to work within the group and make the most of the skills which they have. These groups give a great sense of hope and provide the support and encouragement to begin to generate an income from what they can do.
Diakonia were keen to join with us as well. They had felt the importance of taking their expertise to churches to help congregations in their work of social and economic justice in particular. So this made it a happy arrangement.
The partnership was launched with two workshops on Economic Justice led by Diakonia at Pinetown Methodist Church in April and June 2012. We began to visit the training sessions led by Diakonia and to visit some of the groups that they were running. Our goal was to partner with them for two years and then take over the groups that lay within the boundaries of our circuit.
We were fortunate to receive a donation of R250 000 from a donor in the U.K. which meant that we could look to appointing our own Co-ordinator/Trainer and establishing a Trust from which the work would be funded. So towards the end of 2013 we appointed Zanele Shangase as our Co-ordinator/Trainer and we have now formed the Siyakhula Sonke Trust.
We realized that the groups in our area had become very attached to the people of Diakonia and that we needed to be sensitive about making the changes that we had planned. We therefore communicated with the SHG’s regularly to give them an opportunity to express their feelings about the forthcoming change as well as to share any issues they thought may hinder the process.
To mark the handover from Diakonia we arranged a Celebration in February this year. Most of the group members and Community Facilitators attended. There was a great party atmosphere as we formally recognized the change that was taking place.
Our goal is to spread the work of the Self Help Groups into all of the 23 churches in our Circuit. The need is endless and one of our most important responsibilities is to impart dignity and self-sufficiency to those whose lives are devastated by poverty. We have four Community Facilitators [CF’s] who are looking after a total of ten groups. The target we have set for the CF’s is to have five groups each by the end of this year which will bring the total to twenty. By then we will have learned the ropes and established our relationships with the CF’s and must move onto the bigger job of spreading this work in our circuit.
We thank God for all that has been done up to now and trust Him to help us meet the challenge that lies ahead.