Munsieville Beacon of Hope Community Center
Below is an old mission school building which the Munsieville URCSA church acquired from their Dutch Reformed mother church way back in 1944. At that time, as Apartheid came into view, separation of the races was the mother’s goal. The message was, “Don’t worship with us, here’s a place where you can do it on your own.”
So for over 70 years they took care of this building, using it mostly just for worship. Ultimately, however, they wanted it to be a place that served the poor settlement all around them. On their own, one small step at a time, they began to renovate the building. They began a meals program for hungry neighbors, a sewing center, a home-based care program for the disabled and terminally ill, and an HIV/AIDS program.
In 2016 Side by Side partnered with them by providing resources for a large kitchen so they could have an after-school drop-in center where hungry kids can have a meal in a safe, warm and loving environment.
Pastor Bradley Stoffels, Senior Pastor of Hilton Church had a simple question, “Will you help?”
The town of Aliwal North sits in a beautiful river valley of rural South Africa’s Eastern Cape. It is a community of two worlds; a small, white, mostly middle class population, and a majority of desperately poor families, packed into a collection of corrugated shacks, each one housing eight to ten people. There is often just one water tap and one outdoor pit toilet for an entire community.
Pastor Bradley had no money. But he had volunteers, a good dose of ambition, and an abundance of neighborhood goodwill. You can see what he and his congregation were able to do in less than a year – on a shoestring.
This addition to the church serves as a community center, and has a full kitchen for the continuation of the meal program for kids. Your donations helped Pastor Stoffels complete this project for only $20,000.
Side by Side has worked with churches in the townships of Heilbron, Klipkop and Sebokeng to help establish similar Community Centers.
Early Childhood Development Centers
Lethabong Nursery School
Florah Melaong has dedicated her life to children, operating a care center for the past 34 years, often with little or no compensation for herself. She serves kids ages 0-5 and describes her program as follows: “Children are taught in English and Southern Sotho, learning literacy, numeracy, and life skills – all in a dedicated Christian environment. They are encouraged to develop positive self-esteem, respect and appreciate others, and have a lifelong love of learning.
Side by Side built a new facility for Florah in 2006 – 4 classrooms and an office – serving 100+ kids. She survived by charging school fees to parents and received R5 per day (about 37 cents) per child from the Department of Health to be used for nutritional support.
Side by Side Christian Academy
In early 2022, our work came full circle as the Side by Side Christian Academy opened its doors. In December 2020, Lethabong Nursery School was forced to vacate the building Side by Side built in 2006. After several months of searching, a home was purchased that was remodeled for an ECD. Adding an apartment upstairs provides housing for a family as well as security for the school. In honor of our 15-yr partnership, the Melaong family chose to call the school “Side by Side Christian Academy”.
Malnourishment is prevalent among the children throughout the settlements. Side by Side has supported many programs that help provide desperately needed nutrition to vulnerable children.
In 2019 North Point Church in Poulsbo, Washington partnered with Side by Side and Maranatha church in providing funding for after-school meals served out of the Klipkop Center, monthly food parcels for 120 of the poorest families, and bi-weekly soup delivery. This partnership between Champions and churches exemplifies Side by Side’s vision. When partnerships are committed to a common cause, everyone wins, and children are given the chance for a brighter future.
Clean water is a critical need in South Africa. When Side by Side visited the rural community of Kgautswane, a village of 7,000 people, in July of 2007, we were excited to learn about the existence of an old distribution system, that, while in disrepair, was well-designed, and if operable, would deliver clean water to hydrants within 200 meters of each home.
However, because the water system was broken, the women of the village had to carry water to their homes from a small spring of water collecting in an otherwise dry river bed.
After four years and countless hours of collaboration by Side by Side and local stakeholders, the local municipality agreed to fund the entire renovation project, replacing the diesel pumps with electric and keeping the system maintained.
Another water project in Kgautswane was providing Hippo Water Rollers, which are a great help to relieve the burden of carrying water. These rollers allow women and children to move up to 20 gallons per trip, with much less bodily wear and tear. Fifty rollers were provided in 2007 and 2008.
Many women in South Africa are unemployed but are skilled at pattern-making and sewing. Sewing programs are a way for them to make clothing and other household items for resale, thereby earning them a small income.
In 2006, 2011, and 2021, Side by Side provided funds for the purchase of commercial sewing machines for several partner churches.
Game-Changer for Girls
In 2017, in collaboration with Days for Girls International, a sewing enterprise was started at the Klipkop center. Game-Changer for Girls is all about the empowerment of women through the development of a women’s manufacturing enterprise which produces the Days for Girls washable feminine hygiene kits for young girls.
This enterprise, which has achieved the Gold Standard for product quality from Days for Girls, not only provides employment for 11 women from the low-income settlements, it provides mentoring and skill training in sewing, organizing, planning, management, and marketing.
Several women have been trained and certified as Ambassadors of Women’s Health to provide critical feminine hygiene education.
Since the enterprise started in late 2017, 15,874 girls have received women’s health education and 12,973 kits have been distributed.
Ohrigstad Tutorial Center
Schools in South Africa, especially in rural areas, are grossly inadequate and seriously underfunded. Kids completing their schooling are therefore usually significantly unprepared to compete. To help minimize these problems, the Ohrigstad Uniting Reformed Church, working with the nearby Dutch Reformed Church, organized the renovation of a nearby vacant building. In addition to an after-school tutorial program, it also houses a food distribution program and a program called “Chics,” which stands for “Church Household Interface Care and Support.”
Side by Side helped get this facility and its ministry underway by providing funds to fence the property, build the toilet, purchase some furnishings, and for the food program’s first year of operation. A minimal amount of the funding was used for some playground equipment as well.
Expansion of Maranatha URCSA
In 2009, Side by Side partnered with the Maranatha Uniting Reformed Church (URCSA) to expand their facility by adding a large addition that serves as a community center.
Maranatha is a vibrant church serving in a difficult settlement area where jobless rates approach 90%. As with most other URCSA churches, Maranatha is significantly active in service to its community.
New Community Center/Church Building at Heilbron
The Heilbron Uniting Reformed Church has a new home, replacing a 15′ x 25′ metal shack. The campus, which was officially opened in April, 2013, includes the main multipurpose/church building (which has two classrooms for a daycare, a council room, a kitchen, and a large meeting room), toilet facilities, and pastor’s home.
New Community Center/Church Building at Klipkop
In 2013 construction was completed on a new center for Maranatha’s daughter church, Klipkop. Gone is the 12′ x 15′ corrugated shack. In its place is a new building which includes a kitchen, a sewing room downstairs, two classrooms upstairs for church leadership meetings and other training, and a large auditorium where community meals can be served, and worship and other community gatherings held.
COVID-19 Food Parcels
What a year 2020 was. So much heartbreak and suffering around the world from a pandemic that has yet to be controlled. In South Africa, which had so much poverty and hunger before the pandemic hit, we knew the situation would now truly be dire. With a total lock-down in place, we felt called to respond by providing much-needed food parcels to some of the most desperate families in the communities in which we have been involved. Working with nine partner organizations (churches and NPOs), from April 2020-December, 2021, 137 separate food parcel distributions were done by these nine partners, providing life-sustaining food to over 17,000 households.
Helping Family Who Lost Everything
Fire is one of the biggest risks in an impoverished settlement because people cook and heat with paraffin and wood. Water taps are few and far between, and the fire department often does not come.
Standing in the smoldering ruins, a plan began to take shape. Some men of the local township volunteered to build a new home with building materials that Side by Side supplied, and Maranatha Church, a local congregation, partnered with us to help replace what the family had lost. Two days later the Redebe’s moved into their new home – and this time they had a solid floor!