Isiphephelo place of safety journey

A reflection on the journey so far.
Last month we held an open house at our place of safety in Winterton and were delighted to welcome around 40 community members to share our story so far,  for those of you not able to join us read on to share in our story ..

The Isiphephelo project was originally born out of Isibani.  As a community drop in centre, Isibani became very aware of the need for more services to care for abused, abandoned and vulnerable children.  Time and time again we were told that children could not be removed from abusive and unsuitable conditions because there was nowhere to take them.  It was then that the seed was planted and the journey began.

Our first steps were to visit existing child care facilities all over KZN to learn, it was a great start to our journey as we met some amazing people and learnt so much about not only the passion of the staff running the facilities but about the daily challenges they face.
We located what we believed to be a suitable site in Emmaus, we met with the owners and after much discussion it was agreed that we could lease the site and we started with some minor renovations.  It was at that point that we felt God telling us we must stop.  Despite our natural instinct to just keep going, we chose to stop and wait for God to reveal his new plan ..

Within a week God showed us an almost derelict house, within Winterton itself, we phoned the municipality and found out that the house would be going for auction the following week.  We looked around the house and saw it needed a lot of work, had no idea what it would all cost but just knew that it would be perfect for our needs, we saw from our first visit (amid the falling ceiling boards and trailing wires) where the bedrooms would be, where the house mum would sleep, where we would have the playroom etc.
And now the miracles really started.  We had no money to buy a house so we approached the funders of Isibani and asked if we could use our budget for operating costs to buy the house and they said YES.

On the day of the auction we arrived at the house just in time, only to find the auction was taking place in Bergville!  We really wanted this house so were very nervous.  We prayed and asked for God’s will to be done.  On our way to Bergville we received a call from someone we had met when viewing the house who told us they felt it was meant to be ours.  At the auction we met other members of the Winterton community who later told us they chose not to bid because felt the house should go to us and it did.  We had bought a house !!

And now the renovation .. we still had no idea what it would cost or how we would pay for it but the Winterton and surrounding community blessed us beyond our greatest expectations, the house was re-wired at no cost,  half of the cost of the renovation was covered, furniture was provided, the kitchen was ripped out and replaced at no cost, shelving was made, bedrooms were furnished, the garden was landscaped and on and on and on.

This project would simply have not been possible without this community so thank you, thank you, thank you.

We moved in with our first children in April 2013 and since then have cared for 66 children who have been removed from vulnerable or dangerous situations.  Of those children the majority have been girls and a large proportion have suffered some form of sexual abuse.  Our youngest admission so far was just a few weeks old and our oldest child so far was 14.

The children stay with us for up to 6 months, although it can be longer, the aim is that we provide temporary safe care until a more permanent placement can be found.   Based on our children so far, around 1/3 have left us to children’s homes with 2/3 been returned to family / extended family members.
We keep in touch with our children once they have left and some leavers have been returned to us when their home situation didn’t work out.  We are only offering temporary safe care but we hope that whilst with us the children can begin their process of healing both physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The children have regular counselling, they attend school were possible, their basic needs are met and they receive and give lots and lots of love.
Often when I talk about the place of safety I talk about love, how we give love to the children in our care and how our house is a place of love.  Reflecting on this last month I heard God reminding me of a verse from Matthew 5:43-5:45 43

“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44″But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.…

It was then that I realised how much I have to learn about love from our children.  They have unconditional love for those who have mistreated them.  After many counselling sessions they may finally reveal the horrific things they witnessed or endured and yet they still continue to love ..

God places these children in our care for a season and we are thankful for this amazing gift and for all that we learn from them.  We are privileged to walk with them as they start their journey of healing.

Isiphephelo is a place of miracles, in closing I would like to share just a few
The miracle of the house purchase and renovation:

Isiphephelo employs 9 amazing people including 1 social worker, 2 auxiliary workers, 3 full time house mums and so on and not one job has ever been advertised; the right people just walked through our door on the right day.

Of the 66 children in our care the most serious incident was a little girl getting a plumbing ring stuck on her finger and having it cut off at Emmaus

The miracle of healing that takes place within the children
The miracle of provision,   there is always enough, more than enough.  We now have funding from Government so have been able to re-direct other donor funds to outreach programmes
I hope you have enjoyed reading and sharing the journey of Isiphephelo so far.



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A lot is happening:

Exciting times are afoot at Isibani … No, we are not closing and we are not moving overseas. Read on to find out what is actually happening with Isibani and in particular with the current site.

Isibani opened the doors to the community centre in 2008 and since then we have served many hundreds of people with varying needs. Our aim has always been to help to bridge the gap between the services needed by the community and the services the government is able to offer. In order to serve our community effectively we have to respond to changing community needs and avoid duplication of effort. We also have to work alongside and partner with Government as we ultimately serve the same people.

We were blessed in 2007 to be allowed the use of the Old Celimfundo school site and since that time the site has been used for many different projects and events. The role of Isibani has grown and evolved since 2008 and as a team we feel it is time for the next season to begin … we are planning to move our core operations to a site located in Khetani. We want to be more accessible to the people we serve and to offer more door to door holistic care and forming better relationships with our clients is our main focus.

This move has been on our hearts for at least 12 months and now in God’s timing we have not only identified a suitable site in Khetani to operate from but are able to offer many buildings making up our current site back to Celimfundo Primary School who are massively overcrowded with 1100 children attending school there.

Our plan is that the school will take over the buildings at the rear of the site and that the front buildings will be used as clinic by Isibani in conjunction with the Department of Health. The mobile clinic visits Isibani once each week and once we have restructured we hope to be able to extend the clinic hours and subject to funding, pray that one day we can have a full time nurse and permanent clinic on site saving people lengthy and expensive trips to Emmaus.

As part of our “shake up” we have also looked again at how we provide food support and together with the Matthew 25 committee are transitioning this service into the next level. We have conducted many home visits and identified who we believe to be the poorest of the poor, we are able to visit these families regularly and provide pre cooked meals and basic supplies as and when they are needed rather than handing out generic food parcels each month.

The next stage in our feeding programme is to open a soup kitchen, we hope that this will operate from the newly built and equipped kitchen at Celimfundo Primary School (this was funded by a generous donation from US donors). Children at the primary school receive one cooked meal per day and we would aim to provide a subsequent nutritional filled meal for those in need as well as home work support, counselling, spiritual support and an opportunity for us to address other social problems.

We are working closely with the Department of Health and taking more responsibility for malnourished children in Khetani and will have access to dietary supplements as needed. In our experience a malnourished child will lead to us to a family with many other problems and as part of our holistic approach we hope to identify these families and offer support as needed.

We have also been working closely with the Department of Social Development and intend to employ a dedicated social worker to assist with the many social problems in the area. This person together with our auxiliary workers will be accessible to the community and will also work alongside our feeding programme running from the school.

We are very excited about all these changes which we believe will uplift the community.