Many hands make lighter work. With this being said, Brian America, project director of the Village Care Youth Centre in Lavender Hill, is calling on the community to get involved in making his centre better.The centre’s vision is to build an empowered and caring society where everyone lives in harmony, free of poverty, drugs and disease.The non-profit organisation was a residential facility founded by the City Mission in 1979. The centre was originally used as a safe house for residents of St Montague Village and Lavender Hill.The aim is to empower and care for children between the ages of six and 17 years. “This centre is a safe haven for children in dire need,” says America.They facilitate a range of programmes that aim to act as educational support by encouraging self-reliance and a healthy self-image in supportive interventions.“We have so many programmes and our wish is to have people from the community coming to help us. Though we are in dire need of finances it will mean a lot to us if someone can help with the garden, the cooking or just sweeping at the centre. We want people to be involved and take pride in and ownership of the centre. “It is a safe space for the community and everyone is welcome,” says America.In the centre’s Drop In programme, young school dropouts and street children, aged between nine and 17 years, are taken in from 09:00 to 13:00 from Mondays to Thursdays. “The children are identified and recruited to the centre. The programme urges them to participate in our weekly programme which starts from the morning. The children receive porridge for breakfast, lunch and a food parcel to take home.”America says the programme has achieved success in urging children to return to school. “This year alone, two children have gone back to school. And some prefer to be back on the streets so they can make money.”There’s also an after-school care programme from 14:30 to 16:30, in which children are helped with homework and reading. The programme caters for 20 to 40 children a day.The HIV/Aids support group is attended by people recruited from the local clinic. It aims to provide information and support to families affected and infected by HIV/Aids and other chronic illnesses. It’s a safe learning environment that encourages a positive learning experience. Attendees are also given a meal. One of the centre’s most successful skills development programmes is the sewing project, which is free to join. Participants are awarded certificates upon completion. It empowers them to seek employment or become entrepreneurs. “In the first group three years ago, four out of 10 members received employment through the programme,” America recalls.To help maintain healthy lifestyles, a food garden provides the centre with fresh produce. Residents who are substance-free are allowed to help sustain the garden. The department of agriculture checks up on the progress of the garden. They also have a second-hand shop on the premises that sells R5 to R10 items, such as computer equipment, clothing and kitchen items.America emphasises that not many people are aware of the centre. “People don’t witness what we do for the community and funding is not easily accessible. We need more people to get involved with our initiative. We do it out of the goodness of our hearts to reach out and help others. Here at the centre, one never goes home hungry.”V For more information contact the centre on 084 536 7052, 074 060 3623 or email@example.com.