By: Sim Cele
I was laughing when I wrote that title and while it is a mouthful my reason for laughing was the flashbacks to the moments that inspired this post. Working with children everyday can make for some pretty interesting things being said and done but it can also remind one of the frailty of time. And that’s why we chose to make a big deal about Mother’s Day and give the kids a chance to make something special and handmade for their moms-read on to learn from our mistakes.
I have always wanted children, even though I work with them, I’ve still wanted my own but I have realized that when you have kids, YOU CANNOT HAVE NICE THINGS. You just CANNOT. Unless your children just don’t touch anything or even look at it. The same goes for the children I work with. As much as I love them, I cannot wear nice things around them. Anyway I digress-in a moment of inspiration I decided to forgo our usual Monday plan and start creating gifts for our moms, in light of Mother’s Day coming up. There are many single headed homes in Merlewood, headed up by moms—courageous hard-working, underpaid, stressed out, loving moms- and I really wanted to honor them. So we decided to make frames, candle holders, necklaces-the works over the next few weeks.
Give a kid a glue stick and some glitter and you have problems! It all started out really well, with cut up wood and stations for each activity. Everyone was getting along and it was all going so well. Until the system didn’t work so well and people wanted to skip and do their own thing. Until children decided to use each other’s faces as canvasses and our pants as places to dry their hands or flick their paint brushes. Chaos erupted, and as usual, so did fights. I used to get involved immediately and stop the fights but now I sit back and watch for a few minutes, to see, if something different will happen. Maybe one of them will choose to calm down or not fight back, maybe one of them will just walk away (as I have asked them so many times to do) maybe they will help each other instead of fighting with each other. OH THE DREAMS I HAVE! None of those things happened, instead I had to step in and intervene (as always) and that is another reason why I have paint on my shirt and shorts.
My kids are special and resilient but they live in circumstances that don’t allow them to RISE. They are being kept imprisoned by a system that doesn’t allow them to shine. A system that doesn’t allow them to have nice things. I’d like to think that WE are there nice thing. Maybe God has placed us here to show them that they are loved and cared for, that they do deserve something more than hardships and non-devoted parents or low quality education. That they are the nicest thing. A friend of mine has been volunteering with me for the past 2 weeks and seeing our work through her eyes has made me realize that we do work hard but we can work harder, not for them to learn manners and be what we want them to be but so that they don’t become a statistic of a community. That they are able to be the people they dream of becoming. That they can excel at their own lives one day. That they can be the parents who come home from work with a house covered in crayon and paint and say to themselves-this is why we can’t have nice things.
This is why we do what we do. Why we can be covered with paint and glitter, sit for an hour doing maths sums and have failed science experiments that we still have to clean for an hour. It’s so they can have nice things.
Speaking of nice things, we just wanted to share the news that we have been given permission by the governing body and parent body to work from the school premises. THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!!! It means that we get to work more closely with students in the school. They are even giving us the opportunity to teach our science curriculum in the school for older students and help with the younger grades English and literacy. It’s a very wide open gateway for us!! But there is an obstacle-we need to raise funds to build our own building on the school property as the school is being demolished and we won’t be able to use a portable classroom. We are putting together plans and proposals and crowd funding campaigns but we do need help!
So if you or anyone you know of would like to be a part of helping the Genesis After school Program raise money for a home with a science and tech lab, an arts space and a homework room, please contact us. 039-685-4196.
By: Helen-Jean Stubbs, LiveIt Fitness Instructor
I started Crossfit about 10 months ago, and man has it been something exciting. To say it’s changed my life would be cliche, but cliche smiche, it honestly has. Crossfit fanned my passion for fitness into a raging fire- one that burnt down fields of self-doubt and fragile self-confidence; and left room for determination, drive, self-confidence, healthy body image and constant personal challenge to blossom. I wrote this exactly 10 months ago after my first week of experimental Crossfit WODS. I was sitting in a local coffee shop waiting for an interview with my now boss and fellow Level One Trainer. Its so crazy for me to look back and read this, seeing how I had anticipated my journey to be- and that I still feel the exact same way. So here goes:
If you've never heard of Crossfit- welcome to the journey. I say journey because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a journey where you will strive to better yourself with each and every passing minute. It’s a journey where you will meet people who will motivate, encourage and inspire you to want to be better, do better. It’s a journey where you will meet people that you, yourself, will inspire to want to better themselves. You see, Crossfit surpasses a workout. It surpasses gaining muscular strength and power. Crossfit reveals beauty. It reveals beauty in pain. It reveals beauty in achievement and failure. It reveals beauty in discovering that you are capable of so much more than you ever imagined.
That’s why I say it’s a journey. It’s not something that changes you overnight- it’s so dynamic and so versatile; it has you learning each day. Do you know what it feels like to lift close to your body weight over your head? It feels like achievement. Do you know what it feels like to fail at the bottom of a squat clean? It feels like achievement. No, not failure- achievement. The achievement of knowing that you have challenged yourself. And that you will continue to challenge yourself until you complete five reps of that squat clean, not just one.
That’s a journey. You don't just jump on a bus; take a short, smooth ride and end up at your destination. You hit potholes, the bus breaks down, the guy next to you keeps stealing your arm rest. Bus rides aren't always fun, but every now and then, you catch a glimpse of something beautiful through the window; the cute guy in seat 3B smiles at you; or you get your arm rest back. That’s the journey. The journey that has you enjoying both the good and the bad. The journey that actually never quite stops off at a destination, because you begin to learn that you love travelling. That’s Crossfit. It’s falling in love with a process. A process that never really ends. Yes, you may reach your goal weight or lift that weight you've always wanted to- but what about those muscle ups? What about that 400m run? What about adding one more? One more kilogram, one more rep? Shaving off just one more second? At age 85, Michelangelo famously said, “I'm still learning”. At age 85, Crossfit will have you saying, “I'm still improving”.
So a year down the line, I'm still riding the bus, still enjoying the journey. It has been one of the most challenging and exciting years, but I have improved immensely- and cannot wait to improve even more. What started as a test-run week in an open space, turned into a full-time, fully equipped Crossfit gym. What started as a, “let's see how it goes”, turned into Level One Training and developing new strengths. What started as a “Yeah, I'll give it a shot”, turned into handstand walks, personal best Olympic lifts, new records and faster times. What started as “It’s kinda just exercise really”, turned into lifelong community friendships, laughter, tears, celebrations, injuries, disappointments and most of all, moments where I catch myself thinking, “I can still improve on that”.
So whatever form of fitness journey you're on- keep at it. Keep pushing yourself to reach new goals. In fact, continuously set goals that challenge you on as many levels as possible. Celebrate when you reach those goals, and celebrate when you don't; because that merely means you have another opportunity to improve and attack it next time. Pursue self-improvement like your life depends on it. Life is too short and fitness is too exciting to not want to be and do even better than the day before. One of my favourite sayings of all time simply says, “be FEARLESS in the pursuit of that which sets your soul on fire”. Even if it isn't Crossfit, or fitness or sport of any kind, what sets your soul on fire? And how fearlessly are you pursuing it?
By: Sim Cele, GAP Programme Manager
I am sitting by the door, on the tiled floor of the Youth Centre watching the cars come by and pick up kids, making sure no one gets run over. Sitting on the floor is not only cool (it was a hot day) but also it allows me to observe both the inside of the room and the street outside, praying all the while (mumbled words mind you). I turn my bum around and observe the kids in the room and that’s when he comes and sits next to me. He puts his elbow on my crossed legs and snuggles up right close to me. “Aunty Sim please read this book to me.” It’s a reader, which means it’s mostly sentences, not an actual story, but he asks me to read to him. I hear him repeating every sentence I say word for word. It is such a special moment. After a couple of pages, I ask him if he can read some of the smaller words to me. He cannot, so I spell them out and he repeats them. Then I say, “Okay, let’s go over the alphabet.”
We sit down and I write the alphabet up to J, then I tell him to copy it below. We do it verbally over and over. Then I grab a Fizzer and say, “for every letter you get wrong I get a bite of your sweet,” J (sounds mean but it’s an effective learning method and he did get to eat some too). He starts at A and ends at J, but he forgets D. When I start scratching letters out, he gets confused and misses letters. He is the parrot kid.
Parrot learning is something that has been taught around the world for decades. And although it can be effective, it does not really create children who are self-developing. This method of teaching is taught in schools across South Africa and that is why it is easy to miss kids like Anna* who has been pushed through to the 4th grade but cannot even read.
That’s where we step in. The acronym for our name is G.A.P (Genesis Afterschool Program). We literally see ourselves as doing that; as filling in or stepping across the GAP between schools and students, who need a little extra help. Our country’s schools are under resourced, under staffed and over crowded, which means kids get over looked often. It’s not something I am okay with. Around here we use the language being the hands and feet of Jesus and we try to emulate what that might look like. That’s why we go into communities like Merlewood and try to step into the GAP.
If you ever wonder what we’re doing here, why not stop wondering and rather come have a look, or better yet, partner with us to make it possible for us to reach more kids. Maybe together we can help mould true learners and not just parrot children.J
For the kingdom,
We are blessed to work closely with so many Xhosa and Zulu individuals, who defy the difficult situations surrounding them and work for change in their communities each and every day. It is our sincere desire these people will take over the leadership and management of Genesis in the future. One of these amazing people is Noshile Angel, 23. She came to work at Genesis a year ago as workforce empowerment facilitator. Recently she sat down with me, told me her story, and gave me permission to share it with you.
From her earliest memory, life has treated Angel unfairly. Her parents were poisoned at a wedding and died when she was little. Consequently she and her brother were passed around from distant family member to distant family member. The responsibility of caring for her little brother, rested solely on her shoulders, literally. Angel had to carry her brother around, tied to her back.
“I was all alone. I had to dig for myself in life,” Angel admitted.
Born with natural beauty, brains, and a survivor's spirit, Angel beat the odds and earned her matric. She had to leave her home before 4 a.m. to get to her high school. The environment at home was never conducive to a healthy lifestyle let alone homework. She had the grades and the aspiration to attend university but her grandfather told her she could not do it. “They always were telling me how stupid I was, even when I came home with good grades and a beauty crown on my head, they told me how stupid I was,” Angel recalled. “It was not until the day I came home with bad grades because my home situation was so bad, that my grandfather was happy and danced. He said, ‘see I told you that you are stupid.’”
A victim of confused and blended family structures, Angel was often treated very poorly by relatives, who had no blood ties to her. The high death rate in South Africa has perpetuated this sad familial dynamic. True to her spirit, Angel picked herself up and enrolled in the University of South Africa, only to fall sick with appendicitis. When she was hospitalized because of infection in her abdomen no family members would come to her aid because they believed the lie she was having an abortion.
“Even though I was a virgin still and had no idea, my family would not help me. Later I showed them my scars and they were sorry,” Angel said.
Carrying the emotional scars of being torn down her entire life, Angel soon did fall pregnant. In April of 2013 she gave birth to a little boy named Siyasanda, Nathan. In April of 2015, she buried her son.
“I was preparing for his birthday, but instead I had to prepare for his funeral,” Angel remembered. “It was really, really hard. Because of my hardships it made a bond between me and my son. I had no help and I had to find a way to feed him.”
Angel was devastated because just as she was able to provide for herself and her son, by working as a facilitator for Siya Sebenza at Genesis, he died. As a result of her loss, she was hospitalized for depression and high blood pressure. It was during this time Angel discovered she was pregnant again. In October 2015, Angel gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named, Angel Esona.
“The moment I held her in my hands something changed in me. I got my life back. Not that she is a replacement,” Angel said. “I love her.”
Today, Angel has her smile back. She can look back over her life and see how God had His hands on her in the midst of all her hard times. “Whatever the struggle has been. God has been building something for me. He has been grooming me,” she said.
Angel is now in a healthy environment at Genesis. Life as single mother is still not easy in South Africa, but she has spiritual support from the Genesis Youth team and continues to grow in her relationship with Christ daily.
We look forward to seeing her smile every morning and her love for her daughter is palpable when she proudly shows us pictures. Her hugs are genuine and her confidence growing.
She emailed me the photos to use with this story and she typed, “Me and my Angel,” in the subject line. I do not know about you, but I believe in ANGELS.