Sibanye (South Africa)
In 2010, Red Clay members were introduced to a team of South Africans who were part of a group of selected to the U.S. years before as part of a youth exchange program . These individuals left the US with a strong sense of purpose to serve their communities so that other children may have the same opportunity they had as part of their exchange program. Those members belong to the Xhosa tribe, and so we selected the Xhosa word “Sibanye” (meaning “we are one”) as the name of our international mission and formed a partnership to initiate a joint project to help educate orphan children of the Eastern Cape.
In 2011, the members of our U.S. team traveled to the Eastern Cape to begin the process of working with our South African team members to identify sites for reading rooms that would provide a place for children to read and study after school. We were moved by the conditions we saw and the people we met whose pride comes not from material wealth, but from a love for God and in the many blessings He provides through family and community.
Shortly after the team was formed, the global economic crisis began to impact the very children we were trying to help. One of the local grocery store chains that had been donating food to help to feed the orphans suddenly stopped all of their charitable giving. When we found out about this, we decided to expand the scope of our mission to also help feed the children, many of whom receive their only meal of the day at school. Since then, we have been donating $400 per month to the Seki Women’s Foundation to assist in feeding them. The need for our help has continued, and the number of children being fed has grown from around 50 to over 85, and continues to grow.
Our mission is not only to care for the children. We also strive to help our South African team mates develop into leaders that can help others. Since our initial trip, we have hosted our South African team members here in the U.S. twice. While here, they participate in leadership training, visit our schools and tour non-profit organizations in our area to learn how they can improve or begin similar programs in their country. And they have! A member of the South African team typically develops a project, prepares a budget, and coordinates ground activities. The US team simply facilitates and supports the project where necessary, and is accountable for the management of funds.
Some projects are small enough that the South African team can manage the labor themselves; others are larger and have required the assistance of several US team members to build out the final site. Since our initial visit, the US team has traveled to the Eastern Cape two more times. Together, we have established and staffed 6 reading rooms in 5 locations across the Eastern Cape and stocked them with over 1500 books. (The photo at the top shows the children in one of the classrooms that we provided with bookshelves and stocked with both English language and Xhosa language books.) Each trip we make teaches us more about the effects of Apartheid and how their communities are rebuilding from the ground up. We have made connections with local businesses so that we can source books and construction materials in country to help their local economy. We have toured their schools and met the teachers who struggle to educate upwards of 40 children in each class with little to no materials. As we continue to build relationships, we are now typically greeted by singing children who, once intimidated by our visits, rush to greet us with enthusiasm. We read to the kids (or have them read to us!), play games and spend some time reconnecting with one another. On Sunday, we attend a lively worship service, break bread with church leaders, and bring communion to those who are homebound.
The heart of the mission is really our relationship with one another. Our South African team members have become family and the women at Seki are dear friends. Together, we continue to work to identify sites for new reading rooms, purchase books to expand the existing rooms, and provide food to nourish the orphans. Our team meets with the Red Clay Sunday school children a few times a year to shine a global light on the work our church is doing. Our Sunday School students make cards and crafts that have been sent to the children in South Africa. In return, the women there send back photos of the children we have the privilege to watch grow over the years.
If you are interested in more information about the Sibanye mission, or are interested in joining the team, please contact Ken Comegys at email@example.com.