Norwich couple's mission offers hope and light
Hope and Light is a charity which raises funds to help children living in shacks in South Africa to escape poverty, violence and abuse. Five years ago Norwich Christian couple Dianne and Paul Cruickshank launched the UK branch of the charity. Here they report on the work and a December fundraiser in Norwich.
A few years ago we wrote an article for Network Norfolk about Hope and Light, in which we told of the work of this Christian charity for shack-dwelling children who suffer very impoverished conditions in the township of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, about 25 miles from Cape Town, South Africa. Apart from these settlements, this is a beautiful area that attracts many people from across Europe, seeking to escape from our cold winter months.
The children in this village township live in dreadful conditions of deprivation, sometimes with up to eight people living in one shack, suffering not only overcrowding but hunger, poverty, poor health and insanitary conditions. The adults also face daily battles against unemployment, ill health and, frequently, domestic violence.
In response to this ever-expanding situation, Hope and Light was founded 10 years ago and started an all-day crèche for the youngest little children. There, as soon as they were out of nappies, they could have somewhere safe to play, learn, and to be fed, loved and cared for. The crèche was housed in an old building that had fallen into disrepair, but which, with the help of volunteers was made into a safe, hygienic and brightly painted nursery, with a kitchen in which to prepare regular meals for the children. During the 10 years of its operation, we have ensured that all the teachers working there are properly trained in nursery care and pre-school teaching.
In order to fund the crèche, Hope and Light uses a ”God Parent” or Sponsor scheme, whereby sponsors pay £25 each month to support a child in the crèche. This money is used towards any essential clothing, daily feeding (breakfast and lunch), any necessary laundry of the children’s clothing, and teachers salaries.
In 2010, with the help of donations from a Christmas TV Appeal in Germany, Hope and Light was able to build four complete two-storey safe houses, where children, who had been suffering abuse, neglect and abandonment could be cared for on a permanent basis. The Children’s Village is registered with the local social services, which regularly refer children to the care of Hope and Light. There are now 30 children in the four houses, cared for by full-time Christian house-mothers.
Until 2010, when the children at the crèche reached the Primary school age of seven years, they left the crèche and went to the local state Primary school in the village. Sadly, because of extreme overcrowding in the classrooms and other teaching shortcomings, we found that our Hope and Light children were not progressing well and actually went backwards in their aptitude for learning and general health.
So, four years ago, Hope and Light stepped out in faith and started a Christian Primary school. The school has progressed every year and expanded with another class-year added, and another dedicated Christian teacher employed. We now have four classes of children, with a fifth year required to commence in January 2015.
Space within the village has always been a problem, and the lease on the present building expires in December 2014. We had previously been assured that the lease could be renewed, however we have recently learnt that the new owners intend to use the building to open a backpackers hostel. This means that we must urgently find a new home for the school.
In the almost five years existence of the school, Hope and Light leaders have been fundraising to build our own school and actually have already bought a piece of land in an area zoned for schools. However, we have insufficient funds and time before January 2015 to start the building.
With the limited funds we have accumulated and which were left over from the purchase of the land, we have purchased mobile classrooms and a temporary prefabricated building, to be used for the kitchen and also a toilet block, so that the school can continue it’s work. But, of course, we need permanent foundations and a solid structure to offer the children the best we can for their education and to satisfy long-term the demands of Local education officials.
There is currently discussion in the South African government of a ban on Christian teaching or other faiths being taught in state schools, as is already the case in the United States.
Also, although the Western Cape is desperately short of schools and school places, the Constitution of South Africa expressly prevents the funding of faith schools by the educational departments. Hope and Light is a Christian Community Charity, and the Hope and Light School is a Christian school and our aim is for it to continue as such. We firmly believe that, in the deprived circumstances of our children they are so open to crime and violence, that the redeeming hope of Jesus Christ is the best on offer to keep them safe.
Our next fundraiser for the Hope and Light School building fund is a musical variety concert at Witard Road Baptist Church on December 6, featuring the Broadbeat Choir and other local talented performers . Tickets, which can be bought at the door on the night of the concert, are £5, which includes interval refreshments,. The concert starts at 7.30pm but doors will open at 6-30pm to enable visitors to browse and enjoy the stalls of our Christmas Fayre.
Please will you support this Christian project in any way that you can. We are always available to give presentations about the work of Hope and Light.
The Hope and Light website is www.hopeandlight.co.za and the UK Registered Charity number is 1141782. Dianne and Paul Cruickshank, can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01603 412944.