Hope offered to the forgotten

2016-07-13 06:00
THE Made by Me community centre in Strydenburg.  Photos: Supplied

THE Made by Me community centre in Strydenburg. Photos: Supplied

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MANY would wonder about the high rate of poverty and unemployment in the small town of Strydenburg.

Strydenburg is situated in the Pixley ka Seme District Municipality, 53 km from Hopetown.

The stigma of drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, spousal abuse and illiteracy also clings to the town.

This is all due to the lack of rehabilitation activities and programmes, especially for the youth in town.

The stigma and lack of self-confidence are further blamed for leading the youth of Strydenburg towards loitering around in groups, committing mischief and petty crime.

These concerns were all raised by Paula Faber, the founder of Made by Me, which is a non-profit organisation that was established in June 2015 in Strydenburg.

According to Faber, Strydenburg has a population of just over 3 000 and is regarded as one of the forgotten small towns in the Northern Cape, hence the rate of unemployment.

The town has one combined school, three early development centres, a police station and a few locally-owned shops.

Made by Me formed a community centre for the development of rural community people in various aspects of self-empowerment. It is aimed especially at women and children.

Part of its mission is to create a sense of pride, a healthy environment and self-respect through uplifting the community.

Intervention measures are being made through skills training in order to create self-worth and income for people.

According to Faber, families mostly depend on child support grants, disability grants or pensions.

The community’s lifestyle ultimately leads to even more poverty, as money is spent on alcohol and drugs instead of the basic necessities.

This behaviour leads to irresponsible sexual activity and unplanned pregnancies.

“The youth who do go to school and complete matric have no goals or ambitions, as the average school-leaver ends up staying at home with nothing to do. This also leads to some girls rather resorting to finding a husband and having children, resulting in the poverty level tripled in the family,” Faber elaborated.

Faber said the centre had also helped to create awareness of the major problems in the community and had highlighted unstable family conditions, including petty crime.

High rates of alcohol abuse had also led to many children being born with foetal alcohol syndrome.

“These children end up having learning disabilities and have no access to special schooling. They are placed in the only school there is and suffer even more, as they do not cope well and cannot learn under the normal school curriculum,” she pointed out.

She added that there were also children with other forms of mental and physical disabilities who did not go to the appropriate schools and who were being cared for by family members.

“These care-givers never get time for themselves and this creates a lot of tension in the family environment, often leading to abuse.

“We believe that with the right attitude, proper education, schooling, training and mentorship, we can help the community of Strydenburg reach its potential,” she said.

The founder of the centre elaborated that training and counselling formed an important part of her job, as she was well-trained in HIV/Aids awareness and had a good knowledge of medication and of what a healthy life-style required.

She added that she had acquired all her knowledge and skills from working for a global pharmaceutical company for 20 years and having being involved in community charity work.

She said her desire to intervene in her community had been triggered by her ability to cope with situations in her life, such as her wheelchair-bound husband, her daughter who had been born with cerebral palsy and a quadriplegic brother-in-law.

“We moved to Strydenburg at the end of 2014. It has always been my passion to help people from all walks of life, who have not been as privileged as I am.

“I also have a special place in my heart for children who are different from others and those who need special care, such as the mentally and physically challenged, orphans and the terminally ill.

“In areas where there are poverty, these issues are not always addressed correctly, as families are too busy trying to survive and put food on the table.”

The community centre opened its doors on 1 June 2015, where members of the community, mostly women, were interviewed to find out what skills they had.

“Our philosophy is ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day – teach a man to fish and you feed him forever.’

“Some of these women have none or very little formal education and it was sad to realise how little they had to create a job and an income.”

The majority of people who came to be interviewed, were women. Others dropped out of school because of pregnancy and would really have liked to further their education, but felt that it was impossible.

They were given training in sewing, craftwork, cooking and baking, trade school, embroidery, refurbishment of furniture and education and training in the form of remedial classes for the illiterate to boost their self-esteem.

According to Faber, children with special needs are also assisted with their school work in the form of an after-school care facility.

The centre’s future plans are to open facilities for mentally- and physically-challenged people and a youth club once they get a bigger premises.

“We want to open a class in the mornings only, a place where they will be able to interact with the community, be safe and learn new skills. This way, the carers can have a much-needed break. Hopefully we can then invite the physiotherapists and occupational therapists from surrounding towns to come and assist on an ad hoc basis,” explained Faber.

“Even wheelchairs are scarce. There are many people who can benefit from a wheelchair in our small town.”

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