What can a packet of sugar do? I’m not talking about the calories or the nutrients. I’m talking about the power of giving.
A small church in a small town in the Eastern Cape is discovering what a packet of sugar can do...and a can of beans...and a jar of peanut butter...and a cake of soap...and lots of love. It’s about caring and community and partnership, doing something together to make the lives of others better.
The Isibindi Project is the brainchild of the NACCW (National Association of Child Care Workers) in South Africa. “Isibindi” means “courage”, the name given to a national community-based organisation which employs members of the community to serve “at risk” children and families in their own homes, and trains them to become skilled child and youth care workers under the mentorship of experienced service professionals.
They help needy children in their homes as well as teach life skills to children and youth. Child and youth care workers in each Isibindi project work, under supervision, with some of the most vulnerable of South Africa’s children, including those who are affected by HIV/AIDS, where children are orphaned, live in child or granny-headed households, or care for sick parents.
There are many benefits to those who are involved in the Isibindi Model. Organisations are helped to grow and access further resources; communities are strengthened through the injection of skills and resources; and workers are trained in a recognised profession. But the ultimate beneficiaries of all Isibindi projects are desperate children and families who would not otherwise have access to formal care and assistance. Funding comes from government, international and public sources.
This sounds great...except that the so-called sources of their funding are mostly only on paper. So this little church got involved. First of all they threw a party for the children who are in the programme. Popcorn, hot dogs, hamburgers, cold drinks and cake, goodie-bags filled with all the nick-knacks kids love, shoes, warm jackets and lots of fun soon had the children fully involved. They jumped themselves breathless on the jumping castle, they slid to their hearts’ content on the water slide, they played games, they sang and they listened to the story of Jesus. They went home worn out and happy, having just been children for few hours.
Then this little church had a thanksgiving Sunday... and brought lots of sugar, beans, peanut butter, soap and much more, to say “thank you” to God for His generous provision. They gave their gifts to “Isibindi” to start a pantry for the many families who are starving.
Then they decided to keep the pantry going by bringing their grocery gifts every month...and their used clothes and shoes, and curtains and blankets and anything they have too much of, so that there is always something to give when more destitute families are discovered.
Then they provided a daily bowl of nutritious porridge for the toddlers in the crèche who are HIV positive. Then the child care workers needed a washing machine to wash the clothes of the toddlers with AIDS and a change of clothing to dress them in while their clothes dried and a microwave oven to warm their food, and hairdryers for the teenagers in the development programme, so the people of the small church gave again.
Then the youth of the small church helped the youth of the Isibindi programme to clear their food garden of weeds and replant their crops to help the community. And they supplied hot dogs while they worked. And then the same small church invited the child care workers to a special dinner in their honour, to say “thank you” for caring for the kids.
Then the miracle stories began to come in; an abandoned baby girl left on a granny’s doorstep and a packet of baby clothes (pink) given in the nick of time; a child murdered by a rapist, and enough food in the pantry to feed the gravediggers and the guests at the funeral; and the greatest miracle of all – new hope in the hearts of the childcare workers because they are not alone in their struggle to help those in need.
The food and clothing pantry has spurred the workers on to become the most passionate, dedicated and efficient “Isibindi” team in the whole country and a model for the other “Isibindi’s” in all nine provinces. Countries as far away as Zambia are sending representatives to their little town “to see how it’s done.”
What does it cost the individual? Very little, really. A packet of sugar, a can of beans, a jar of peanut butter, a cake of soap, but in partnership with each other we have found that there is enormous power in a packet of sugar.