Sithand’izingane Care Group
Our slogan is: “Let the little children come to me” – and this is our response … This is our way of relieving children from the psychological and emotional stress they experience from living in poverty stricken families and from the HIV/Aids pandemic.
Sithand’izingane Care Group was founded in 2000. The Sithand'izingane Care Project, started by St. Paul's Catholic Church in Tsakane and St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Geluksdal, Brakpan, is a community-based, community-run ministry to needy children and families — especially those affected by HIV/AIDS, which has swept through Sub-Sahara Africa with deadly force. Both are MSC parishes where MSC priests have been serving the communities over the years: Fr. Tom Duane, Fr. Martin Morrissey, Fr. Eugene Clarkson and Fr. Joseph Wilson.
The project was initially headed by Fr. Tom Duane msc and Dominican Sister Sr. Mary Tuck op. The project is situated in Withok (Tsakane) on the East Rand, Gauteng.
VISION:To provide support for poverty stricken families, needy children, orphans, and those who are affected/infected with HIV/AIDS.
MISSION: To promote the well being of all people and help make their lives a fulfilling and enjoyable experience while growing and developing ourselves.
After many years of full dedication to the project Sr. Sheila Flynn got involved in the Sithand’izingane Care Project and started Kopanang Community Trust.
Dominican Sister Sheila Flynn is one of several nuns living and working in two townships in South Africa — townships separated by a road and years of racial hatred. But the Sithand'izingane Care Project is addressing monumental needs in the communities and trying to bring unity where apartheid once divided, and healing where AIDS now reigns,
The name Sithand'izingane means "We love the children," but the community project ministers to all sectors of the South African region. Many in the area, explained Sister Flynn, were forcibly removed from their homes in the 60s and 70s to work in gold mines and factories, but in the last six years both major sources of employment have shut down.
"People who have been displaced are now experiencing not just abject poverty, but unemployment and hopelessness, and AIDS is an unbelievable sorrow for the people," the nun said.
An estimated 70 to 80 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS worldwide are in Sub-Sahara Africa, which makes up only ten percent of the world's population. AIDS is the leading cause of death in Africa, according to Catholic Relief Services.
In December of 2000 a run-down, vandalized house was transformed into a workshop for papermaking and embroidery and a flat for the communal garden's caretaker and family. The project recently opened a center for AIDS orphans and provides counseling, youth programs, emergency aid, and training in organic farming, marketable skills and basic medical care. The goal, Sister Flynn said, is to "find ways of empowerment, not dependence."
Kopanang, a woman's project, births hope, healing and livelihood through art and story. Women, Sister Flynn said, are especially susceptible to AIDS because of rape and because they have more bodily fluids that can carry the virus. The nun uses her background as an artist and teacher to help women create vibrant embroidered cloths and clothes, as well as stationary and journals they can sell to support themselves.
"In making beautiful things something happens in you," the nun explained. "Many women have never ever experienced themselves as something of value. They go from not feeling valuable to expressing themselves."
And the power of self-expression is especially important when it comes to talking about AIDS, which carries with it an enormous stigma in South Africa, the nun added.
"It's easier for a mother to come (to Care Project) to say her children do not have food than to say, `I think I'm dying,'" she said.
As the women share their lives and stories, they also find strength to speak about their sicknesses.
"We hope it will give courage to people to get tested and know that we will support them all the way, whatever it takes," the nun said.
Fikile is a grandmother in the project. Her daughter Priscilla and grandchildren Lucky and Fatscho have AIDS. In a testimony written for Kopanang, Fikile writes that family, neighbors and friends began to shun them when their sickness became public.
"Then the sisters came to my life," she writes. "They brought friends to visit us — they were not afraid to be with us. ... Without God I would not have made it and with the help of the sisters and what they did for my daughter. We would not have coped."
Later she writes about Fatscho, who at eight is already dying of AIDS: "We don't sleep for the whole night with his stomach running. He is sick; the only thing I ask — I know he is going to die; I am also going to die. I ask God, this child has this virus; it must not torture him. Take him then so he'll not suffer like this. This is the hardest thing to see him suffer so much."
"It's stretched my heart and my faith to capacity," Sister Flynn said. "I think it's the experience of `We are the Jesus that each of us is expecting.'"
"We know we could not do what we are doing if we were not a faith community," she added. "We would not have courage to face another day of sorrow and pain. The courage of the people that comes through the suffering is an enormous witness to Christ's resurrection hope, and we believe (the project) is a place of hope."
- Drop-In Centre
- After School Care
- Poverty Alleviation Organic Gardening
- Sewing Group
- Food Parcels
- Feeding Scheme
- Skills Training
- Bereavement Counseling
- Kopanang Community Trust
- Empowerment for women Embroidery
- Screen printing
To Find out more about these ministries please download the PDF document.