Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

How to get your kids to be generous this Christmas

Preferably without bribing them! Here are some of our suggestions.

For many kids, Christmas is the ultimate highlight ofthe year, so much so that advent calendars counting down to Christmas Day start selling in shops as early as October! Shiny decorations, piles of presents, and sweets galore – it’s easy to see the appeal. But if you have kids, it’s often hard to get them to see beyond the presents and decorations, to the real meaning of Christmas. That Christ came down from the glory of Heaven and was born into literal straw poverty in a manger. All because he loves us.

A good place to start is by asking your kids how they think Jesus would be celebrating Christmas if he was living in Cape Town. Would he be playing with his new presents, or would he be loving the people who maybe don’t have family to celebrate with? Would he be eating lots of sweets or would he be giving generously to those who don’t even have money to buy food for their family?

Read more…

Volunteer Q&A: Paradigm Shift Business Course

Roy, right, with Freddy, left, one of the Paradigm Shift students, at the course graduation ceremony

Full name: Roy Mayers

Congregation: Common Ground South

Occupation: Finance and Admin Manager (Retired)

How long have you been a volunteer at Paradigm Shift? This is my second year.

When do you go and for how long? I spend an hour one evening a week with a little extra time for set-up and prayer. A normal course is 18 weeks, but we alternate volunteers as needed.

Can you explain what you do while you’re there? I teach business skills and discipleship training as a table facilitator with up to six aspiring entrepreneurs.

Facilitators who are normally six in number take it in turns to lead a 30 minute business skills or discipleship training session and can be involved with mentoring or micro-loan family meetings.

Can you tell us a bit about Paradigm Shift? The mission of Paradigm Shift is to train churches in South Africa to provide business training, discipleship, micro-credit and mentoring to those living in poverty in urban areas.

Common Ground is presently the only church in Cape Town assisting Paradigm Shift in meeting the spiritual and economic needs of the poor in their communities in our city through this excellent program.

The aim is to provide long-term solutions to the poverty surrounding mainly unemployed people in urban areas where needs of the working poor in neighbouring communities are tremendous, especially for women and children.

Why did you decide to volunteer at Paradigm Shift? On hearing of Common Good’s involvement I immediately identified with the need and wanted to make a difference in a practical way. I had previously been involved as a volunteer teaching woodwork skills to young men at the Westlake United Church Trust Community Centre. The opportunities to share life’s experiences in a meaningful way seemed tremendous.

Did you have any concerns about volunteering? I had no experience of formal teaching and lacked confidence in this area. It seemed harder to me as for many years my wife had lectured at UCT and run Lifeline courses, while my son was a school teacher and Radio CCFM broadcaster. Needless to say I soon discovered a very supportive group environment and quickly found my confidence in the small “up-front teaching” part of my commitment.

The business trainer and life coach manuals provide a wealth of material in addition to the information in the entrepreneurs manuals. This made it immediately easy.

What are  some of the challenges you face in volunteering? A little time is required weekly to familiarise myself with the course material which is always excellent and relevant to the needs of our entrepreneurs.

It can be hard work winning the trust and friendship of people who have such different challenges in their lives, and to accept that they have unique skills and opportunities to overcome problems in life and faith with which I have seldom had to cope.

What keeps you going? I gave my life to Christ more than 50 years ago, but every day brings opportunities to learn more of the mind of Christ and His love and His practical way of leading and guiding by His Spirit and through His word, which are powerful in meeting the needs of ordinary men and women.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your volunteer experience? The end of course graduation is an amazing event where graduates and past graduates share how much they have benefited in their business, in their confidence in facing life’s difficulties, and in their daily walk with Christ. It is like seeing a miracle where a “few loaves and fishes are used to feed a multitude”. Helping men and women recognise their gifts and God-given abilities despite material poverty, remains an awesome experience.

– Would you like to find out more about volunteering with Paradigm Shift? Email

An Alternative Kind of Christmas

If you’ve been to the shops lately, you’ll probably have noticed that something green, red and shiny is in the air. We probably don’t need to remind you (unless you’ve been hiding under a rock that is) but… it’s nearly Christmas time!

If you’re one of the lucky few who’ve been blessed with family and financial security, it can be easy to sail into the end of the year in a haze of shopping trips and elaborate celebrations. What’s often harder to do though, especially when you’re looking forward to a well-deserved break, is to remember all of those people who won’t be ‘celebrating’ Christmas this year.

For many people, the coming months are going to be lonely, debt-filled and tense, as  family conflicts and financial needs rise to the surface. As Christ-followers, we have a real reason to celebrate this season. Not because it’s a time of overindulgence, but because it’s a time to celebrate our Savior’s birth. And what better way to celebrate Christ’s birth than by loving those in need? Because, if we’re honest with ourselves, he probably wouldn’t be hitting Canal Walk if he was in Cape Town this festive season. It’s far more likely he’d be in the shelters, the children’s homes, and the hospitals, holding the hands and loving those who have no earthly reason to celebrate.

So on that note, we have a present for you. Introducing our (drum roll, please)…

Christmas PlugIn sheet!

Download this doc here for a list of ways you can give your time and stuff to serve the vulnerable and marginalised of Cape Town over December.

Let’s celebrate Christ’s birth this Christmas by showing our city his love!

P.S Stay tuned for another exciting Christmas opportunity we’re going to be launching on Sunday…

Volunteer Q&A – English Tutoring

Full name: Jane Wood

Congregation: Common Ground South AM

Occupation: Part-time remedial teacher

How long have you been a volunteer at NETwork? Since the start of this year when I joined Common Ground.

When do you go and for how long? I help on Mondays from 13h00 – 15h00.

Can you explain what you do while you’re there? I assist with the teaching of English to mainly French speaking refugees. This includes story telling, grammar, comprehension, conversation and word games.

Can you tell us a bit about NETwork? NETwork seeks to help people by developing their skills, improving their confidence and preparing them for the world of work.

Did you have any concerns about volunteering? Having always worked with young children I was a little uncertain about teaching adults.

How did you overcome this? From day one I loved it. The students loved my very English accent and my high school French.

What are  some of the challenges you face in volunteering? The frustration of knowing about some of my student’s poverty, poor living conditions and lack of opportunities to obtain suitable work. Many of them have degrees and other qualifications from their country of birth but are unable to work in their field of expertise in this country.

What keeps you going? I am a committed person and the response of the students and other helpers has given me a love for what I am doing.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your volunteer experience? One of my students telling me that his aim is to speak like me!

-There are numerous  volunteer opportunities available at NETwork. If you’d like to find out more about volunteering with them, email

A Hope That Never Runs Dry

How do we still hope when all earthly reason for hope is gone? Beverly Draper reflects on why self-reliance and positive-thinking can only take you so far.

There have been many occasions when I have been confronted with situations where people have lost hope. As a medical doctor, most often it has been in the context of an incurable disease and certain death. Paul was in his thirties when he was referred to the oncology clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital where I was working. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer but the doctors told him that he should not worry; the specialists would be able to treat it. He arrived in a very positive frame of mind and after the first round of chemotherapy, he did really well and resumed work. But a few weeks later, he started to get sick again and at his follow up visit it was obvious on his X-Ray that the tumour in his lung was growing and was now larger than ever and was spreading to other parts of his body.He was devastated because he believed that he had come to oncology for a cure.

One afternoon, he called me and asked me to come to his home in Pinelands. I arrived to find a man broken and confused. He asked me to level with him, knowing that I was a Christ-follower and that I would speak the truth. I told him that short of a miracle, he was certainly going to die in the not too distant future. I watched as Paul slowly moved his focus of hope from a medical cure and restoration of his physical health to hope of eternal life in Christ. He was able to find peace and place himself and his family in God’s hands, no matter whether he lived or died.

People who are self-reliant believe that their own talent, intellect, resources and connections provide hope for a future that holds the same or even better friends and family, education and the security of material possessions. In other words, they place their hope in things that make them ‘happy’. It is a hope that is earned rather than given. Many believe that a code of morality will bring security, or having a positive attitude will bring good things. Hope is placed in doctors, teachers, housing officials, employers or even government authorities to improve circumstances. Often this may happen – people get cured, promoted, receive bursaries or get paid out what is due to them. But where does one go when all hope is gone?

Read more…

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