Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the month “September, 2011”

Part 3 – How to respond

By Chrischele Alberts

If you’ve been following my journey, in Post 1 I shared about how I got involved with Colleen’s Place of Hope and in Post 2 you learnt a little bit more about Colleen, the driving force behind this amazing place.  In today’s post, I’d like to share more about how my involvement with Colleen’s Place of Hope has forcefully jolted me out of my comfort zone.

By far my biggest challenge was to overcome my feelings of inadequacy in facing such huge social giants. What really helped me was, firstly, having an employer who places a high premium on social upliftment, secondly, being part of a wonderful faith community, Common Ground Church (CGC), where we’re constantly challenged to respond to issues of poverty and injustice and, lastly, seeing how Colleen ”just got on with it” despite the odds. Putting them together, I came to realise that my “giants” weren’t that daunting after all.

So, this is how I responded…

One of the first things I did was to rally support for Colleen for the Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Award in 2010. We made sure she was nominated for the “Good Neighbours” category, and got friends to support our nomination for this award. Colleen was selected out of hundreds of nominees to make it in as one of the top three finalists in her category. As one of the finalists, she was flown to Johannesburg for a well-deserved weekend break complete with all the trimmings. This gave her national exposure and some desperately needed funding.

I also enlisted the help of one of my colleagues, Tanya Rossouw, who is actively involved in  Live to Race, a non-profit organisation with a passion for children and a keen interest in cars. They hold events at Killarney which give vulnerable children an opportunity to experience the thrill of motor racing. During one of our chats, Tanya invited Colleen’s Place of Hope to their next event.

I put the request for help to my family and our young’uns (as I fondly refer to them). Six beautiful young ladies, my girls included, responded. We arrived in convoy to take the children to Killarney. We had an amazing time –  the organizers were fantastic and the children were gobsmacked by the whole experience.

Getting an opportunity to race around the track at full speed in modified racing cars was truly an experience of a lifetime! For the young’uns, it was a humbling experience and “unexpectedly rewarding” as one of them put it. We’ve done this two years in a row now and it looks set to become a highlight in our family’s calendar!

Part 2 – An Angel of Mercy

By Chrischele  Alberts

Yesterday, we got a glimpse into the beginnings of Chrischele’s journey with Colleen’s Place of Hope, a home for vulnerable children in Mitchell’s Plain. Here she tells us more about the amazing women behind the organization.

Colleen’s deep sense of compassion and care for others was born out of her own difficult childhood. She best understands the emotional needs of these children as she experienced firsthand the devastation of a neglected childhood. From a young age, she had a vision that one day she would provide a safe haven for abandoned, abused and neglected children so that no child in her care would ever have to endure pain and suffering. Instead they would be loved and nurtured in a warm and safe environment.

Listening to Colleen tell the story of the home’s humble beginnings really speaks volumes of her commitment to this vision. Against all odds and with very little resources, she persevered and today, 20 years later, the steely determination and strength of this diminutive woman and the 500-plus children that have passed through the doors of Colleen’s Place of Hope all give testimony to her dedication  and perseverance.

Currently there are about 30 children ranging in age from newborn to 24 years old. Her secret ingredient is love, not as a noun but as a verb.

Colleen centers her life on her faith in Jesus, who is her foundation and her daily source of strength. With utmost humility, she credits all her success to God and the loyal support of her family and the communities who have opened their hearts to partner with her.

What really strikes me about Colleen is that, despite raising her own family, she continues to open her heart and her door to abandoned children in need. Her resolve to give these children a chance at a normal life has instilled a sense of pride and belonging in them.

Accomplishing this is difficult at the best of times, but this is further compounded by the fact that the community of Beacon Valley in Mitchell’s Plain is riddled with crime, gangsterism and drugs. This grim reality does not deter her; instead it only seems to spur her on. She has great expectations for her children and constantly motivates them not to let go of their dreams.

Colleen has been such an inspiration to me. I thought I knew what love was until I met her. She has completely redefined my understanding of the word and made me realise that you don’t have to have millions in the bank to make a difference. All you need is a heart of compassion and a burden for the vulnerable and out of this place all your actions to effect change will flow. Her simple mantra is “just love them”. Your heart decides how you portray that love.

Next time I’ll share with you how I’ve been challenged into action through my relationship with her and her precious charges. Watch this space…

Part 1 – When God calls you

By Chrischele Alberts

Last year, one of the beneficiaries for the “Bags of Love” Christmas drive at Common Ground Church was Colleen’s Place of Hope. Common Grounder Chrischele Alberts shares the amazing journey she’s been on with this organization for the past three years.

In 2009, my work held an annual corporate social responsibility drive where each employee could choose to get involved in a few different initiatives. I ‘signed up’ to help out at Colleen’s Place of Hope, a home for vulnerable children in Mitchell’s Plain. Why I did this was beyond me at the time. I didn’t feel a particular tug for children. Maybe it was because it was in Mitchells Plain, where I’m from originally. I really don’t know. All I can say is thank you God for directing my steps that day and for setting me on a new path that would have life-changing side effects.

The brief was to spend the day doing maintenance work in and around the home and organise a pre-Christmas party for the children. But as I drove home that evening after spending a day with the kids, I broke down into the most gut-wrenching sobs I’ve ever experienced. I really don’t remember how I made it home safely. I felt like my ordered and secure world had been pulled out from under me and I’d been completely displaced! That day, God allowed me to get a glimpse into his heart and my heart broke for what I saw reflected there.

In the days that followed, try as I might, I just could not get Colleen’s Place of Hope out of my mind. After the initial debrief session, everyone else in the office seemed to be getting on with life but I was stuck, getting intermittent flashbacks of ‘that day’! The need I witnessed there totally overwhelmed me. I kept battling with feelings of my own inadequacy in facing this enormous challenge.

During one of my daily readings that week, I came across the scripture in Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”. Something just clicked into place and with that I “accepted my lot”. The next day, I called Colleen and made an appointment to see her. And so with just a few small steps began a journey that would change my life.
(To be continued…)

A bit about the author
Chrischele Alberts is married and has two daughters, Thalea, 24, and Courteney, 13. She works for Old Mutual as an automation specialist and has been part of Common Ground Church for eight years. She’s also led and been a part of the Sisters Incorporated weekly ministry team for the past five years.

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