Vistarus celebrates 18 years of changing lives

Bryan Prins with his youngest son, 18-month-old Theo Prins, at the Vistarus Mission Centre in Sydenham. Photo: SUPPLIED
Bryan Prins with his youngest son, 18-month-old Theo Prins, at the Vistarus Mission Centre in Sydenham. Photo: SUPPLIED

VISTARUS Mission Station in Sydenham officially celebrated its 18th year of service to the Eastern Cape community on Friday.

Vistarus is a family-run organisation dedicated to getting homeless and troubled people off the street.

On July 8 1998, Kobus and Lynette Jacobs started this life-changing centre and since then they have sold most of their earthly belongings to keep it afloat.

Lynette Jacobs said that they had no idea what they were doing when they started on this journey and learned most of what they know through various mistakes until things evolved into the smooth-running system they have today.

“God told us to love these people. And that is exactly what we are doing here,” she added.

On average they house about 80 children at any given time and provide housing for more than 400 people.

Vistarus is actually a community within a community. It has its own little tuck shop, a playground for the children and several fundraising projects in progress. They even have a doctor who comes in once a week for those who need medical assistance or advice.

The centre rents out apartments to people with jobs on the outside and provides a home to the homeless and destitute.

For those who cannot pay their own way, there is a programme they must take part in, in order to stay at the centre.

“Every new person is interviewed by Kobus to get a feel for their circumstances so we know what to do with them next,” said Nadia Jacobs, public relations officer for Vistarus.

The programme lasts for at least three months, during which addicts, alcoholics and abuse victims must attend church and counselling, and adhere to several rules before graduating. The programme is mandatory for both adults and children.

They each get a set of clothes, shoes and other essentials when they arrive for which they are responsible.

They are eventually placed into the work programme at the centre.

The various jobs on offer at the centre include working in the laundry room, the kitchen, the library, the wood work shop and the Plastic Plant owned by the centre.

There is also a crèche where people can leave their children in the morning before going to work.

The biggest project currently running at the centre is the recycling project, with more than 60 people working in it. It provides the bulk of the centre’s income.

Most of the essential supplies at the centre such as clothes and food come from sponsors. Woolworths has been the centre’s biggest food supplier since 2007.

“The majority of the guys that come in are very malnourished and thin. That is why the good meals are so important,” said Steven Bolhuis, who recently joined the centre as a mission worker.

The centre cooks more than 20 000 meals every month and uses about 40 loaves of bread every day.

The centre has started a few new projects recently such as a solar panel project and a safe house for babies called Hope Baby Safe Home where they wish to provide shelter for children being placed in the foster care system.

For more info go to www.vistarus.co.za or visit their Facebook page.

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