Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “christmas”

Give Hope with Izandla Zethemba Fun Days

This Christmas, don’t just give another box of chocolates; instead purchase a Give Hope card and enable a child to attend a fun day… Here’s more about Izandla Zethemba and why these days out are the real gift.

Enjoying the thrills of chilly waves at an Izandla Zethemba beach day

Enjoying the thrills of chilly waves at an Izandla Zethemba beach day

It’s a sunny Saturday morning in Cape Town and a group of children are ready for a day at the beach. Flip flops, hats and swimming costumes are on; towels and spare clothes are packed. The anticipation of sunshine and ice cream is visible on almost every single one of the 60 faces as the big bus pulls into the Muizenberg beach parking lot.

Most children love a day at the beach but this day is made all the more special by the reality that, for many of these children, days like this don’t come around all too often. For some, this will be their first trip to the beach, for others it will be a rare chance to forget the challenges of home and enjoy a moment of carefree childhood – jumping in waves, building sandcastles and eating hot dogs.

A sand castle building competition under way

A sand castle building competition under way

These children are all a part of Izandla Zethemba (IZ), a community-driven HIV/Aids programme based in Thambo Village, Gugulethu, which provides care to families affected by the pandemic. This care includes weekly support groups for both adults and children, counselling sessions, home visits, and nutritional support. The children’s support groups also go on recreational outings once every six to eight weeks.

These fun days are a highlight on the calendar for both the 120 younger children, who form the aged 5-11 group, and the 40 teens, who are in the aged 12-18 group. Past outings have included trips to the aquarium, the snake park, the ice rink, up the Table Mountain cable car, and, of course, the beach!

A trip to the petting zoo

A trip to the petting zoo

“These days are great for them to explore their country and take a break from the hardships at home,” says Xolile Makutoana, the teens support group coordinator. “After a fun day, when we do a home visit. the parents tell us how much they appreciate it and that the children keep talking about it. For some of them, the next time they go outside [the community] will be the next fun day.”

“Some of the children are HIV positive or a family member is positive,” explains Lucy Joseph, who oversees the younger children. “And some of their parents have died and they’re now living with grannies, aunts or siblings. When we go on the home visits, we asses their living situation to find out who is employed, how many people are staying in the house, how well they’re being taken care of and if there’s enough food.”

Learning how to skate on ice with the help of friends

Learning how to skate on ice with the help of friends

In cases where it’s needed, IZ will provide stationary, school uniforms and monthly food parcels. For the teens, much of a week the week is focused on discussing life skills topics. The staff also build close a relationship with the clinic to ensure that those on medication are taking their medicine correctly.

“Some of the environments where the children are living is not healthy,” says Lucy. “The fun days give relief to the caregivers and the children always come back happy and with lots of stories. For some of the kids they don’t have outings with their family so it gives them something to experience outside of their community.”

“I enjoyed everything about the outing… It was good to bond with my sisters, to go out and be just our selves,” says Nokuthula, 15.

“When we go out we forget our problems and worries that we have back home,” says Abongile, 17. “Everyone is treated equal and special. You feel you belong to a loving family.”

For more on how you can get involved with Izandla Zethemba, email us. Read further for info on how you can support through Give Hope…

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Show loveShow Love This Christmas: Enable a child to attend a fun day

This festive season you can enable a child to attend a fun-filled day outing. How? Purchase an Izandla Zethemba Give Hope card for R50. 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.

On finding the perfect gift… and missing the point

Presents, food, tinsel, more food and more presents. In a society where Christmas is driven by consumerism, Julie Williams shares how she and her family will go counter-culture this year by putting Christ at the centre of their celebrations. 

Photo Credit: Shandi-lee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Shandi-lee via Compfight cc

If you’re hoping to find a blog post berating Father Christmas as the anti-Christ and linking his poor reindeer to hell’s apocalyptic horsemen, let me save you the time. Regrettably for you, this is not that post.

In fact, I am particularly fond of Christmas and all its pagan traditions. The Christmas tree, the gifts under it, the fake mistletoe, and good old Father Christmas. When I look back on my childhood, it is punctuated with happy memories of this time of year. Believing in Father Christmas (for a few brief years) did not make me lose all trust in my parents or create an inextricable pull towards the occult (that came later, after watching Harry Potter). Jokes aside, if I’m honest, I’m not so sure that everything that comes with the festive season is all together festive or healthy…

Like our collective irrational desire to get more. More tinsel, more of those nuts that everybody seems to have in their homes that you have to crack yourself, more crackers (seriously, has anyone in the history of forever, ever pulled something out of an over-priced cracker that was worth keeping? Even just until pudding?), more stuff we think we really need but really don’t, more stuff that our kids really don’t need, and a whole lot more food.

Like most of you, I also like to give more too… I write lists of the most thoughtful gifts for my loved ones and then spend loads of energy and time tracking those things down. And in the process, taking my credit card limit to new heights (or lows according to one less festive spouse, but nobody asked him to write a blog post fortunately).

I love it – all of it. Even the end of January toast and baked beans that are bound to follow. But over the last few years, as I skip around crowded shopping centres that seem full of irritable people, I have been wondering, am I missing the point? Worse still, am I perpetuating this missing of the point onto the next generation now that I have minions, I mean, kids?

I’m a Christ-follower, and I know what the real meaning of Christmas is, but in the actual day-to-day busyness of life, it’s difficult to see the wood from the trees. Or in this case, the Christ in the chaos. As someone who loves Jesus, this should primarily be a time to celebrate his arrival. That means putting down the fairy lights and shopping lists for a second and reflecting on what that actually means.

What should we be celebrating at Christmas? That God put skin on: That the Maker of the Universe who holds everything together, whose hands span the galaxies, let go of all of that to become a tiny, helpless babe. He gave up his riches to become poor for us. All because of love. Christmas is about celebrating the ultimate downgrade. It’s about reveling in the ultimate gift – not a flattering outfit or entertaining toy – but a person. A Saviour who satisfies our weary souls like no ipod, gift voucher or glazed ham ever could.

I’m really not wanting to rain on anyone’s festive parade. I’m just calling for a bit of perspective. Like the thin layer of icing above the fruit cake – all of our traditions should be small and inconsequential beside Christ this Christmas.

How will we practically do this? You get to work that out in your own life. But this is what we’re doing differently this holiday season…

A debt of love, minus the debt.

We’re going to spend less on gifts. Not because we love our family and friends less, but because going into debt to show how much we care is just really dumb. And because despite what advertising tells us, the perfect gift to give this Christmas doesn’t cost a cent – it’s our time and love. When it comes to our own kids and gifts, I stumbled across this list a year ago and found it super helpful. Our kids get four things each: Something to read, something they need, something to wear, something to play with. They really do need new shoes and swimming costumes, and cultivating a love of reading is a priority for us, so really, they’re getting one ‘real’ gift, but don’t tell them that! We think it’s also important for them to realize that everything they get is a gift and not a right, even the necessary things.

Santa’s our little helper, not the other way around.

We’re not hyping Father Christmas up as the hero of the story. He’s a side act to the real show. How do our kids know this? By virtue of the fact that he gives the smallest gifts every year. Not the biggest.

Christ-centred Christmas traditions.

We’re early in our journey as a family. But we want to better reflect Christ’s love in this time. So we spend time shopping and putting together Care for the Carer gifts, and on Christmas evening, we have a time of reflection together, we talk about the day and look at all the things we got given, than we pray together and thank God for our gifts, and especially for the BEST gifts of all, Christ and his great love for us. The day after Christmas, as a kind of detox, we give each of them a box and ask them to give away some of their good-quality toys and clothes to bless others.

This may sound very Brady Bunch, but the reality is, our kids will probably be climbing all over the couch while we’re praying on Christmas night, and wailing like somebody is wanting them to donate a vital organ when they have to part with some of their things the next morning. It’s not going to be all that festive, but then again, maybe that’s not the point. It certainly wasn’t Christ’s.

Julie Williams is a part-time freelance copywriter, mother of three and pastor’s wife. She serves on the Common Ground Church leadership team together with her husband, Terran.

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Show love Like Julie, you too can make this Christmas more meaningful. Our ‘Show Love This Christmas’ campaign offers a few ways you can make a real difference in the lives of those who are vulnerable and in need. For more information on how you can get involved, click here.

Let’s Care for Carers this Christmas

Tinsel in shop windows is just one tell tale sign that the festive season is upon us, but what if this year we took the focus off all the sparkly stuff and celebrated the people Jesus would want us to celebrate?

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A carer from Westlake United Church Trust making a home visit to a client

The World makes much of the rich and famous, celebrating success, excess and triviality, but as Christ-followers, we need to ask, “Who would Jesus be hailing as the real heroes?”

Across Cape Town there are thousands of men and women who devote their lives to caring for the vulnerable, the elderly and the sick. What better way to celebrate Christ’s birth then by celebrating these unsung heroes who serve those in need in our City so sacrificially every day? 

On Saturday, 23 November, Common Ground Church will host our third annual Care for the Carer event. At the event 150 caregivers will be honoured and treated to inspirational talks, delicious snacks, gifts and entertainment.

Carers and volunteers at last year's event strike a pose in the fun photo booth

Carers and volunteers at last year’s event strike a pose in the fun photo booth

“This one pamper day means more to me than words could ever describe – I now know that I’m loved and cared for, and what I do as a carer is appreciated and noticed. I’m also so deeply moved to know that people from Common Ground Church are thinking of and praying for me,” says Veronica Weiers, a carer who has attended our two previous Care for the Carer events and who will be pampered at this year’s event again.

There are two main ways you can support this event:

1. Team up with your small group and purchase a gift bag for R120.

This will cover the cost for a carer to attend the event. Inside the bag, you’ll find the profile of your carer to help you pray for them, write them an encouraging card, and fill their gift bag with treats to the value of R100.

Your small group should be discussing the Care for the Carer gift bags this week, so why not chat to your small group leader or champ about how you can help get your group involved?

If you are stirred to purchase a separate bag from your small group, speak to your champ and visit the Common Ground Involvement Desk after the service on Sunday. All bags need to be returned to the Common Good involvement desk on Sun, 17 November.

2. You can also sign up to volunteer at the event.

You will need to be available to serve on Saturday, 23 November, from 10h00 to 12h30. You can volunteer as a member of the events team, as a table host, or as a driver (to transport carers to and from the venue).

Sign up at the Common Good Involvement Desk on Sunday, 3 November, or email us.

This is such a great way to serve those who give their lives in service to others.

Have you watched the Care for the Carer video?

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Show loveShow Love This Christmas

Care for the Carer is just one way to get involved in our ‘Show Love’ campaign! You can also purchase Give Hope gift cards which will support various Common Good initiatives.

These cards will be on sale at the Common Good Involvement Desk after Sunday meetings or from the Common Ground cafe during the week. For other ideas, pick up our Christmas PlugIn Sheet from the Common Good Involvement Desk. More updates to come!

Thank You For Giving Hope!

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During the Christmas season, we launched our second annual Give Hope campaign – and thanks to everyone who supported by purchasing cards, we were able to raise R42 500 for Common Good initiatives!

That means:

–          149 fun-filled day outings for children from Izandla Zethemba’s HIV/Aids programme

–          167 new books for children in our literacy programme

–          79 nutritious food hampers for families

–          27 small business owners to attend the Paradigm Shift Business Training course

–          32 currently unemployed people to attend the NETwork computer course

–          Over R7000’s worth of building material and tools to upgrade and maintain children’s homes, schools and NGO’s

We are so inspired by the generosity and compassion of this community. Your support has helped positively impacted thousands of lives 🙂

What a wonderful way to kick off 2013!

Love,

The Common Good team

Bags of Love delivered to Sisters Inc!

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You might be wondering what happened when the Bags of Love got delivered? Here’s what one volunteer, Sue Powell, witnessed…

One of the most defining characteristics of a child is their uninhibited expression of emotions.  While this can be a temper tantrum of sheer frustration, I was privileged enough to watch the absolute joy and unrestrained delight on the faces of some little children at Sisters Incorporated.

Sisters Inc is a place of safety for moms and kids who are trying to change their lives and escape from challenging, tempting or dangerous situations.  A small Christmas party was held for these moms and kids, and ‘Bags of Love’ were given to each child.  These bags have been filled by people who have taken the time, money and effort to bless those less fortunate than themselves during the festive season.

As these bags were handed out, I found myself speechless as I watched the blatant pleasure clearly evident on so many faces.  One little boy pulled a ball out of his bag, and just stood there throwing it up in the air and catching it – a huge smile on his face.  Another was on his hands and knees driving his car all over the floor.  I can hardly describe his pleasure as he pulled it back and realized that the car could drive on its own!  Another little girl was having fun ‘dressing up’ as she pulled out a little pink T-shirt, pink slip slops and a sun hat.  All gifts were considered with so much delight and packed in and out of their bags many, many times.  Each child wanted to show off their stash and many of them came to show me what was in their gift bags with infectious delight!

The moms were delighted at their children’s joy.  Many of these ladies have enough of a financial struggle to survive, and seldom get the opportunity to spoil their children.  They were so grateful that someone had made the effort to make sure that their children experienced some of the joy common to so many kids all over the world on Christmas morning.

Sometimes, in the rush of end of term and the chaos of the shops, it seems an effort to go and find another special present for a Bag of Love or Santa’s shoebox.  But next year will be different for me – I’ll be able to picture those little faces and the absolute delight so evident there!  I’ll remember the appreciation of their moms, who knew that they couldn’t provide those gifts themselves and were so grateful that someone else had blessed their child.  And for this year, this scene of delight is also a reminder of the completely undeserved gift that we received many years ago – a gift that we didn’t earn, and couldn’t possibly buy for ourselves, but one that God in His mercy and love provided for us.  I’m sure that my Christmas will be richer this year with this fresh reminder of how the birth of Jesus is our unexpected and undeserved ‘Bag of Love’.

– Sue is part of a team of women from Common Ground Church who conduct a bible study with the ladies at Sisters Inc every week.  As a mom of two little boys, she can relate to the moms at Sisters Inc and understands their desire to do, and to be, the best that they can for their kids.

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