Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “volunteer”

5 Questions To Ask Before Volunteering

It’s the beginning of the year, your schedule is still relatively empty and you’d love to sign up as a volunteer before things get busy. Sound familiar? Read this to help you get going.

Volunteers teaching maths during Winter School last year.

Volunteers teaching maths during Winter School 2013. Not a maths bof? There are loads of other ways to volunteer!

Volunteering is a great way to give of your time and talents, get to know people from diverse backgrounds, and learn about some of the issues impacting our city. But when it comes to choosing what to do, it can be overwhelming, daunting and sometimes downright scary. Where do you even start?

First up, it’s good to realise that volunteer opportunities are not one size fits all. What your best friend enjoys to do might completely drain you, whereas something else might become the best part of your week.

God has wired each of us differently so a good place to start is by taking the time to figure out what’s a good fit for us. Thankfully, there are so many opportunities available that there is something for everyone – even if it takes a bit of digging to discover!

Here are our top 5 key questions to ask yourself before you sign up:

1. What kind of person are you?

Are you a people’s person? A behind-the-scenes person? A kid person? A definitely-not-a-kid person? Knowing what you like and what you don’t like is a good first step in helping you narrow your options.

2. What causes interest you?

Is there a specific cause that is close to your heart? Maybe you’ve always wanted to care for vulnerable children? Or maybe you’re passionate about improving education? Or have a desire to serve those living on the streets?  If your heart feels tugged in a certain direction this is often a helpful indication of where you’d best be suited.

3. What skills do you have?

Whether its maintenance know-how, legal expertise, or a talent for sewing, there’s a good chance that you have a skill that could be just what an organisation needs. Skilled volunteers are always highly sought after so why not list some of your skills and then look for an opportunity where you might be able to use one of them.

4. How much time do you have?

Think carefully about your time availability and when it would be best for you to serve. Are you only free weekends? Or week day nights? Are you available once a week or once a month? Are you looking for a once-off commitment or a long-term opportunity? Knowing when you’re available and for how long will help clarify which options are open to you.

5. Do you want to volunteer alone or in a group?

There are a number of opportunities like tutoring literacy or reading bedtime stories where you will be facilitating one or a few children, for the most part, on your own. These are great if you prefer smaller groups but if you’re more of a people’s person, then you might enjoy getting a group of friends or your small group to do something together like a fun day or maintenance event. Think about which scenario would best suit your personality.

What next?

Once you think you have a good idea of what you’re looking for, why not browse the opportunities available on our website? You can browse by congregation or by partner/initiative.

Have any more questions? Email us and we’d be happy to help you.

How my loneliest Christmas changed the way I celebrate

Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography via Compfight cc

By Nathalie Koenig

My name, Nathalie, means ‘born at Christmas’ – something which I found to be pretty random, since I was born in March. That changed on 25 December 2008.

I’ve always loved Christmas – the thrills, the frills, the gammon and gravy… the family time, the presents, the carols and the Midnight Mass. And throughout my memory, it had been a happy and celebratory time. But not Christmas 2008. That was a different Christmas.

I had been in a dark and confusing place for months, and couldn’t see any way out. My life had shrunk, and I felt alone, misunderstood and hopeless. And it was Christmas. So all around me was joy and cheer, family occasions that demanded joy and cheer – and… just all this joy! And cheer! Which just made me feel even more pathetic, and alone… and a little Grinch-like.

But then on Christmas night, close to midnight, God spoke to me. He touched me as I grappled in sadness, and filled me with a feeling I couldn’t decipher at first. Then I realized I was filled with consuming fear – I was confused, and wondered what it was that’d suddenly begun to paralysingly terrify me. Then I just knew. I was terrified of my capabilities. My capabilities?! This made absolutely no sense to someone who was convinced that they were, and always would be, a failure. But it was the first time in months that I experienced hope. And this hope multiplied in the days to come, and my life began to turn around. I realised that there was a God who would meet me where I was at, and remind me that He had faith in me. A couple of days later, I remembered the date that this realisation happened, and the meaning of my name. It was no longer random.

While this particular Christmas became an unforgettable season of rebirth for me, it was also the Christmas that helped me begin to understand that Christmas really isn’t the ‘festive season’ for everyone. But evidence of other people’s festivity is EVERYWHERE. I was better able to relate to those people who found this season to be the most difficult, loneliest time of year.

I’m part of a ministry at Sisters Incorporated, a home for abused women and their children, where we have a Bible study with the ladies every Monday. As is common, over the Christmas period, we ‘shut down’ – as people go away, and the holiday season fills up with all things Christmas. And Sisters’ residents, who can’t go to their families, or who do spend time with their families and get reminded of all the things they needed to get away from – can be left feeling the pinch of loneliness, and the absence of those support networks that re-activate in mid-January. Some ladies may relapse into old habits – some even crossing the line to the point of having to leave Sisters Incorporated. It’s a season where a lot of steps forward can be quickly doubled back on, with tragic implications.

So for the past couple of years, we’ve tried to keep some kind of presence at Sisters, and we’ve had ‘prayer-buddy’ systems going… We’ve been real in our sessions leading up to Christmas about how it is a tough time, and tried to share tools that could help ladies cope.

But there’s definitely room for more.

If Jesus was here this Christmas, I have no doubt that He would place himself with the vulnerable. He would give hope to the hopeless, stand in the pain of the lonely, and bring comfort to those who mourn. I’m not sure what it would look like, but I love to dream of what it would look like if His Church would do the same. Because I know that He has faith for His Church to be His hands and feet to those in need at Christmas time – and all year round.

There are many different ways to show the love of Christ this Christmas. There may be people in your family who have been sidelined, and could use some love and encouragement; there are people who will spend the season in hospital, potentially with very few visitors; there are shelters for the homeless, and children to be hosted for the holidays. If your Christmas time is too full and stretched, there are organisations that you can support with donations and encouragement.

So how will you show love this Christmas?

Nathalie is a programme coordinator at Common Good and a member of Common Ground Church‘s Wynberg congregation.

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Show loveLooking for ways you can make a real difference in the lives of those who are vulnerable and in need this Christmas? Download our Christmas Plug-In Sheet here for some ideas, or click here for more on our Christmas campaign.

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.

Giving The Gift of Reading

Thanks to a generous donation by the Peninsula 77 Round Table, we were able to purchase boxes of brand-new books for our Kewtown Primary Literacy Programme – opening up a whole new world of opportunity and imagination!

We think it's safe to say these books have been a huge hit with the learners and volunteers alike!

Members of the Peninsula 77 Round Table with Mr Balie, the Kewtown Primary principal, and volunteers and learners from the Kewtown Primary Literacy Programme

Since starting in May 2011, the Kewtown Primary Literacy Programme  has aimed to improve the reading ability of Grade 2 learners at Kewtown Primary using the successfully tested Shine Centre model, which pairs volunteers with one or two Grade 2 learners for a session once or twice a week.

The learners enjoying story time :)

We wonder what this story is about?!

The Literacy Programme is currently providing one-on-one tutoring to 10 Grade 2 learners at Kewtown Primary with the help of 11 volunteers.

And the volunteers hard work is paying off! The last assessments showed that the literacy levels of those currently in the programme improved by an average of 20% whilst those not in the programme improved by an average of 10%.

The learners enjoying the new books :)

The learners enjoying the new books 🙂

But what would a literacy programme be without a range of beautiful and inspiring books to help nurture within each learner a love for reading? The donation from the Peninsula 77 Round Table has taken the Literacy Programme to the next level by providing a fresh and much-needed supply of books to help the volunteers encourage and motivate the learners.

“We are so grateful for the new books as now we have variety for the children and they are excited about the shared reading time again,” -John Kensley, volunteer

The literacy programme centre at Kewtown Primary

The Literacy Programme centre in the Kewtown Primary library

“These books are exactly what we needed to make shared reading a fun, exciting time.” – Gavin Copeland, volunteer

A huge thank you to the Peninsula 77 Round Table for this donation which will impact the lives of so many children. Not only will these books help the volunteers to tutor the learners so their literacy levels can improve, but they’ll also help develop what will hopefully be a lifelong love of reading. A gift that will keep on giving!

Literacy Programme learners waiting to tuck in to the celebratory cupcakes :)

Literacy Programme learners waiting to enjoy the celebratory cupcakes 🙂

Interested in volunteering? Email us to organise a visit to the Literacy Programme where you can find out more before signing up.

Izandla Zethemba Teen Fun Day

On Saturday, 27 July, 20 Common Ground volunteers and four Khanyisa Church volunteers went to the Grand West Ice Rink for a day of fun with 34 teens from Izandla Zethemba.

Here’s what some of the volunteers and teens had to say about it:

Helping one another get the hang of ice  skating

Helping one another get the hang of ice skating

“I look forward to whenever there is going to be an outing with Izandla Zethemba because I know they never disappoint. When we go out we forget our problems and worries that we have back home. Everyone is treated equal and special. You feel you belong to a loving family. The fact that I don’t need to prove myself and I can be who I am, that is why I keep on coming to Izandla Zethemba. The outings are a bonus.”- Abongile, 17

“This was one of my best outings with Izandla Zethemba. Even though, I was falling on the ice most of the time, I had lots of fun!” – Sisanda, 16

Enjoying KFC for lunch :)

Enjoying KFC for lunch 🙂

“I enjoyed everything about the outing, especially the [arcade] games at Wonderland. It was good to bond with my sisters, to go out and be just our selves. Thank you to everyone who helped out. God bless you all.” – Nokuthula, 15

“I loved seeing the teens overcome their fears and learn to skate. I helped teach one girl who was scared in the beginning but after a few laps around the rink became so confident that she was calling out to her friends who were still trying to get the hang of it! It was so awesome to see their sense of achievement.” – Jess, Common Ground volunteer

Getting the hang of it!

Looking like pros already!

“I looked at everyone and I just saw happiness – all the teens were just being free and doing whatever teens do for fun. The joy was just written on their faces.” – Xolile, Izandla Zethemba teen coordinator

“I love the connection simple ‘fun days’ provide. Not only can teens connect with one another outside of their usual routine, but this is also an opportunity for them to connect with adults who can be potential role models.” – Marcienne, Common Good programme coordinator

A skating lesson in progress

A skating lesson in progress

About Izandla Zethemba

Izandla Zethemba is an NGO in Tambo Village, Gugulethu, which provides support care and peer education to those in the surrounding community affected by the HIV/Aids pandemic. For more info, visit their website.

Common Good partners with Izandla Zethemba’s staff and volunteers in the planning and running of kids and teen fun days once every 6 to 8 weeks. These fun days are a great opportunity to connect with the IZ teens and kids in a relaxed and fun environment.

Want to get involved?

If you’d like to get involved in helping out at Izandla Zethemba on a weekly basis, email us to find out more about volunteering at the IZ teen or kids support groups during the week.

Otherwise, keep an eye out for the next fun day!

Thank you to Intercape for kindly sponsoring transport for the teens to get to and from the ice rink!

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