Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the category “Feedback”

Give Hope through Paradigm Shift

This Christmas, you can enable a small business owner to attend a business course that might just change their lives for good. 

An aerial shot of a Paradigm Shift class in action

An aerial shot of a Paradigm Shift class in action

It’s a Tuesday evening in Wynberg, Cape Town, and gathered together for the Paradigm Shift business course are 30 small business owners each with a unique vision for their future. There’s Sally who dreams of using the business skills she’s learning to help others out of poverty, and Theresa who hopes to take her business of hand-sewn home decor products to the next level by improving her customer service.

For many of these Paradigm Shift participants, this course is their first introduction to basic business principles like budgeting, record keeping, advertising, and investing. The skills they learn here could be what turns their struggling small business into a profitable and sustainable enterprise capable of bringing in a steady income and providing for their families.

Since 2010, more than 150 small business owners have graduated from the Paradigm Shift course run by Common Ground Church. One entrepreneur’s revenue increased from R2500 per month to over R8000 per month while doing the course!

A volunteer and participant deep in discussion

A volunteer and participant deep in discussion

Across South Africa, over 15 churches have implemented the Paradigm Shift model to train, coach and mentor 1800 entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs increased their income by an average of 72%, supporting more than 9000 family members in the process.

Who is the Paradigm Shift course for?

It is aimed at micro-entrepreneurs and people who may have started their own business out of need. Many of the participants may not have  finished school or had the opportunity to get tertiary education or any business training.

Participants getting involved in the session

Participants getting involved in the session

How does Paradigm Shift work?

The course starts with the entrepreneur attending a one day Business Experience course, where they learn basic business skills in a fun, interactive way. If they enjoy this and would like to continue, they can sign up for the 18 week programme, which includes a Business Growth course and an Emmaus Road course, which teaches the entrepreneurs how to apply biblical principles to their business.

The programme is run by a team of business-minded volunteers who are keen to share their experience and see people grow both in their business knowledge and in their personal lives. Each of the small business owners also receives a volunteer mentor, who they meet with once a month to discuss what they’re learning in their course, how their business is doing and to connect on a personal level.

Hard at work completing one of the exercises

Hard at work completing one of the exercises

Here’s what some previous Paradigm Shift graduates had to say:

“This programme has helped me so much. It has lifted me business wise and spiritually. It gave me an opportunity to mix and share with different people.” – Rosemary

“I’ve made new business contacts, met new friends, and received practical advice on day-to-day business needs and how to resolve issues.” – Fernando

“It is great for networking and meeting people who are able to assist and connect and direct your business in relevant and appropriate ways.” – Lezley

For more on how you can get involved in the Paradigm Shift course, email us. Read further for info on how you can support it through our Give Hope Cards…

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Show loveShow Love This Christmas: Put someone through the Paradigm Shift course

This festive season, you can profoundly impact someone’s life by giving them the opportunity to attend the Paradigm Shift course. How? Purchase a Paradigm Shift Give Hope card for R200. There are also other cards available which all support Common Good initiatives. Click here for more info. On sale at Common Good involvement desks (Sundays) and at the Common Ground café.

Thanksgiving at Beth Uriel

“Every year at Beth Uriel is a miracle,” says programme director, Lindsay Henley. And what better way to give thanks for another year of miracles and blessings than with a thanksgiving dinner?

The Beth Uriel family

The Beth Uriel family

Beth Uriel, “House of Light”, is a home with a heart – and dining room table, or tables – bigger than most, which makes their annual thanksgiving dinner a very special event. Why a thanksgiving dinner, you might ask? “Because we have so many things to be thankful for!” explains Lindsay, their programme director.

The brightly painted Beth Uriel house in Woodstock, Cape Town, is home to 26 young men from different, and often very difficult, walks of life. But regardless of the journey that bought them to Beth Uriel’s front door, here they’ll have the opportunity to further their education and pursue a meaningful, independent future with a lot of love and support. So when another year is drawing to an end there are plenty of reasons to give thanks in this home.

“As we circled the room and spoke of what we were thankful for so many things came out: gratitude for family and friends, thanksgiving for second chances, appreciation for support and guidance, and thankfulness for God’s provision,” says Lindsay.

A photo from last year's thanksgiving dinner

A photo from last year’s thanksgiving dinner

“Our ‘basket of loaves and fishes’ is literally filled with nothing at the start of every year, and yet we celebrate so many accomplishments and gifts when it comes to the end of the year,” Lindsay says. “Each gift is a miracle.  Whether it’s money towards school fees, clothing, shoes, bread, gas for our stove, or the gift of time from tutors and other volunteers. Grace comes in so many shapes and sizes at Beth Uriel and thanksgiving is a time to celebrate it!”

Emily and Marcienne at this year's dinner

Guests Emily and Marcienne at this year’s dinner

Here’s what some of the guests who got to enjoy the evening had to say:

“What a privilege to share a delicious thanksgiving meal with the Beth Uriel family. As we each explained what we were grateful for, I felt a real sense of community. A group of individuals each with different reasons for saying thanks pulled together because of one beautiful place!” – Marcienne Koenig, Common Good programme coordinator

“When I signed up to help with tutoring at Beth Uriel to fill an empty evening once a week, I didn’t realise what God was getting me into. Over the past two years, He has been changing my heart through the Beth Uriel boys… I am so grateful that Jesus gave me the courage to step through the doors of Beth Uriel and offer myself to His work there, because through that He has blessed me abundantly.” -Kate Posthumous, Beth Uriel volunteer tutor

A message of inspiration for the year ahead

A message of inspiration for the year ahead

“I thank God for the foundations of Beth Uriel which were laid many years ago, as it is still resulting in strong young men exiting the house when they have completed their stay.” – Blamo Brooks, Common Grounder and Beth Uriel board member

“It was such a wonderful night to celebrate with Beth Uriel and to stop and reflect on the blessings in our life. We were able to give thanks and remind one another just how far we have come through God’s grace and provision. No matter how many trials we currently are facing, we always have something to be thankful for.” – Emily Oppenheimer, Common Grounder

What are you giving thanks for this year?

For more on Beth Uriel, visit their website. Keen to become a volunteer tutor next year? Email us for details.

Hope In An Age Of Hunger

Are we conforming to a culture of comfort at the expense of those in need in our City? Roger Wood shares what he’s personally grappling with post-Live Under The Line.

“So what happens now? Another suitcase in another hall…” These are the lyrics from the chorus of the song sung by Eva, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Don’t cry for me Argentina”.  These words sprang into my mind, as we came to the end of another attempt at Living Under The Line.

At our first attempt three years ago, my wife and I just about managed to keep to the R60 budget but the second year we failed!  This year I’m afraid we modified our target restricting ourselves to a modest breakfast and evening meal only and reflecting on how others cope when they have to manage on this amount daily.  But is it really about surviving the three day target?  If we are thinking this way we’re missing the point.

Prior to Living Under The Line, I had been helping a local NGO evaluate bursary application forms.  One of the requirements was that the applicants must be from a rural area and one of the points to consider was financial need.  Many of the applicants stated that they were living with Grandmother, as their parents had died. In addition there were often a couple of aunts and uncles living in the house as well as the additional siblings.

Grandmother was able to get a state pension of R1260 and child support subsidy for two children. That amounts to a total income of R1860.  If you do the maths, that works out to R10 per person per day.  These stories brought home to me the reality faced daily by so many in our country.

At the same time I had been re-reading the book, “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”, written by Ron Sider back in 1978. For me, the challenge of Living Under The Line was more of an opportunity to examine our own lifestyle.  I began to recognise that my wife and I have adopted a lifestyle similar to those in our community. We spend our money on: our home, food, clothes, possessions, entertainment, cars and holidays.

We have a greater affinity with the affluent rather than with the downtrodden and the oppressed. We have accepted a middle-class culture and have ignored Jesus’ radical teaching with regards to money and possessions. We have not even chosen to live simply, so that others may simply live.

People with money can always buy food. Hunger affects only the poor and as they usually live a long way from where we live, we are not always aware of their need.  What a tragic picture! Affluent Christian communities amassing wealth while millions of people hover on the edge of starvation.

Ron Sider sums up the first chapter of his book with these words:

“But if the Christ of the Scripture is our Lord, then we will refuse to be squeezed into the mould of our affluent, sinful culture.  In an Age of Hunger, Christians of necessity must be radical nonconformists.  But nonconformity is painful.  Only if we are thoroughly grounded in the scriptural view of possessions, wealth and poverty will we be capable of living an obedient lifestyle.”

What do you think?

-Roger Wood is a retired educator presently working as a volunteer with Common Good.  He and his wife, Jane, are members of the Common Ground Constantiaberg AM congregation.

P.S. Did you know yesterday was World Food Day? Here are some other interesting reads: “Beyond The Hunger Pangs” and “13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice”

Beyond The Hunger Pangs

During the Live Under The Line challenge, the Common Ground Church base was buzzing with conversation as staff members traded recipes and shared their experiences. But what about a month later? Here are some post-LUTL staff reflections…

I’m trying to be more generous

156098_10151343760646281_797515950_n-001“After doing LUTL, I’m more aware of how I spend money on a daily basis. It’s incredible how all the little things we buy here and there add up and are often unnecessary luxuries—luxuries that most living in poverty cannot afford to have. I’ve tried to cut back on unnecessary spending and also limit my electricity usage to have more on hand for blessing others. During LUTL, I became quite grumpy and moody when I didn’t have enough to eat for the day. Now when I see someone begging who is quite aggressive or desperate, I understands that it might be just because they haven’t had enough to eat. It’s given me a greater heart of compassion and grace for people living in challenging situations.” – Lindsay Sherring, Common Good fundraising coordinator

I’m thinking, what else?

73017_457583527711_6000657_n-001“This year was my second time doing LUTL, and whilst the first time was about initial exposure and counting the rands and cents, this time was more about the unbelievable reality that 13 million South Africans live on R10 a day for ALL things. It made me realise how easy it is for me to pay R40 or R50 for a simple lunch – when that represents the entire amount one person living below the breadline has to live on for five days. The hard part is the next step. Contracting budgets is one response – but what else? It will be different for everyone, but there must be some kind of response.  But guilt cannot be the driving factor, otherwise our motives will be misplaced. It must start with seeing others the way God does – made in His image, and therefore deserving of dignity.” – Tim Hoffman, Common Good mobilise and equip programme manager

I have more compassion

901939_611366308891932_516021097_o-001“Around the office we chatted that it was almost impossible to live on R10 a day and remain healthy, both mentally and physically. I’m far more aware of people who are living on the street and I have more compassion for them and their situation. Now I take the time to talk to them, to be friendly and engage them in a conversation, rather than just giving them a nod or smile or ignoring them completely. I have tremendous respect for those who struggle on a daily basis to cope with life without adequate resources. I am truly blessed to have what I have and be in the situation I am, but I am also aware that anyone can end up in a desperate situation and that it is often not of their own making but because of life circumstances beyond their control.” – Moira Richards, Common Ground Church hospitality and redemption group coordinator

What about you? Has the Live Under The Line challenge impacted you in anyway?

P.S. Other great post-LUTL reads: “13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice” and “Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow”

13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice

Did Live Under The Line challenge or change the way you live in anyway? Eulogi Rheeder shares how living on R10 a day opened her eyes to the individuals behind the statistics.

A snapshot of Eulogi's groceries for the three day challenge

A snapshot of Eulogi’s groceries for the three day challenge

I’ve done Live Under The Line (LUTL) every year, but my hunger pangs always got the better of me and I usually gave up before the end of day one. This year, however, I was determined to complete the challenge or, at the very least, make it to the end of day two.

As I set out on the first day of the LUTL challenge, 9 September 2013, I asked God to freshly stir my heart for social justice in our City. Instead, He opened my eyes and gave me 13 million reasons to take Live Under The Line beyond the three days. Here’s my story…

Last year, my small group visited The Haven Night Shelter in Woodstock; our aim was to spend time and bless those who are vulnerable, in need and away from their loved ones. On the first night I met Diane*. She had come to South Africa from Malawi in the hope of creating a better life here. Instead, she found herself homeless, unemployed and at the mercy of others. I was touched by her story of bravery and her love for Christ, and how she didn’t allow her circumstances to dictate her zest for life.

My small group continued to visit the shelter every couple months and my friendship with Diane grew; she also started coming with us to Common Ground Innercity.

But soon enough ‘normal’ life – work, family, friends, church and other responsibilities – took over. And my friendship with Diane became secondary to the ‘more important’ stuff in my life. I would see her at church on Sundays and SMS her every other week, but my contact with her had become a social justice act without Jesus at the heart. In short, it was nothing more than just another task.

Fast forward to Wednesday, 11 September 2013, the final day of Live Under The Line. I had made it and was just a few hours away from finishing the challenge. Many of us were talking about what we would eat once we are allowed to break the R10 a day bank: Big Macs, a Vida cappuccino, a bacon croissant, Speckled Eggs… the list went on and on. As I was excitedly thinking about what I was most looking forward to eating again, Diane’s face popped up in my mind.

Although my heart had made the connection that Live Under the Line was recognising and identifying with how 13 million South African’s live every day, my eyes were starting to see the faces, stories, hopes and hurt behind the statistic – it was people like Diane.

Suddenly LUTL was no longer about the food, the money and the hard-hitting stat, but about the people; the 13 million individuals. This thought challenged me to think, how was I going to take LUTL with me into the rest of the year? How was I going to live social justice with the heart of Jesus for the other 362 days?

In John 13:34, Jesus instructs us to love one another just as He loved us. When I read this scripture on the afternoon of 11 September, I knew that this is how I (and you) can take Live Under The Line with me (us) every day: if I truly loved Diane, like Jesus loved me, she would be my friend; we’d have a real relationship; and Diane wouldn’t be just another tick on my social justice to-do list.

So, in the month since LUTL, I’ve freshly approached my friendship with Diane, based on John 13:34. We visit each other at our homes, we’ve gone for picnics and braais, and we encourage each other with scriptures. She’s told me about growing up in Malawi and I’ve shared stories from my teen years. I’m now purposefully spending time with her; not because I feel this is what I need to do, but because I’ve gotten to know Diane, and truly love her and call her my friend.

Diane and I come from very different backgrounds and very different circumstances, yet we meet each other in the middle because we love each other like Jesus loves us.

LUTL has not only allowed me to look at social justice with fresh eyes, but also challenged me that it’s not about what I do for social justice, but about how I do it.

So, how are you doing social justice?

*Name has been changed

– Eulogi is the communications manager at Common Good and a member of the Common Ground Church InnerCity congregation.

P.S. Some more LUTL feedback and reflections: “Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow” and “Have You Heard Of LUTLing?

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