MY final days with NewDay are spent outside of Khanyisa, visiting our programmes off-site. This begins with a trip to one of the vast nurseries stretching out across the Cape Flats.
I am introduced to George, from the CWP (Government-funded Community Work Programme), who together with Stanley has been overseeing the foodscaping project since its inception.
Within the nursery there are lines of neatly potted seedlings, shielded by netting from the elements, stretching like a green carpet as far as the eye can see.
George carefully inspects the different trays before selecting those most suitable for the next rotation of seasonal crops in the Phoenix High School Garden. Cabbage, spinach, celery and beetroot are chosen as the vegetables most likely to flourish and bring in the best harvest in the coming winter months.
NDU was granted the long lease at Phoenix High School to regenerate the neglected plot into a community garden, growing fruit and veg and contribute to food security in the area. They are also rolling out a home garden initiative, equipping individuals and families to grow their own produce in their back yards.
Hand ploughed and watered until there’s funding for better equipment and irrigation, the team have toiled on this site in tough conditions. Guards at the school gate help to keep the area secure to prevent seedlings being stolen, another example of the desperation pervading this society.
In the middle of the site is a new memorial garden in remembrance of volunteers tragically killed in gang crossfire – a poignant reminder of the dangers and loss many in this community encounter each day. I find it inconceivable this daily danger faces those who come to work on this plot, rising above their own circumstances to see a better and brighter future for those living there.
We pause from planting to return to Khanyisa for NewDay’s 6-weekly Stop and Pray, when all the team collectively pause from their programmes, to meet together and pray for each other.
My final day in Cape Town takes me into the neighbouring township of Manenberg. A dual carriageway separates the two communities and different gang territories. Most of the residents are fearful of crossing the road and the dangers from mixing with those on the other side.
Despite the short distance from Khanyisa, we drive for safety. The perimeter of the school is surrounded by metal fencing, topped with barbed wire. Our identity is checked before the padlocked gates are opened by their security.
Despite the impressive backdrop of Table Mountain, the government-built single storey school has classrooms with simple wooden desks and rudimentary equipment. We pass a blossoming and neatly tended garden, manned by ‘Uncle George’. He has spent the past decade creating this tranquil green space with flowers, vegetables and fruit, with a wormery in a disused bath – such creativity!
As we walk, I glimpse a brightly coloured mural proclaiming ‘Be grateful, you’re full of great’ – a poignant reminder of the importance of gratitude and the dignity and worth of each person who passes by.
I meet ‘Uncle Cyril’, a gentle man who has spent the past 20-years investing his own time and few financial resources to develop a small library and computer area for the 630-primary aged children and the wider community.
Sadly, Uncle Cyril suffered a stroke last year. During his time in hospital, thieves broke in, vandalised the space, stole every computer and wire they could. I find it hard to grasp why anyone would do anything so senseless. I can only imagine the extremes of what poverty and desperation will drive people to do.
But what was intended for harm, is being used for good. Uncle Cyril reached out and over the past few months NewDay has helped to restore the room to create a Computer Hub.
Rimone and Riaan from NewDay have been industriously repairing, painting and securing the space ready for 30 desktop computers which have been donated by the Sozo Foundation – another example of the power of collaboration. Once in place the NDU team will train the kids and staff to use the computers and ensure access to IT equipment essential for their ongoing education and a better future.
I’m encouraged to see NewDay is not hindered by the gang and historic ethnic barriers. Breaking these down is essential – as in any society – for a healthy community and all to thrive.
Before I return home, my time with NewDay is completed with a team lunch and sampling a South African tradition: the ‘great Gatsby’ – their answer to a subway sandwich, but on steroids!! I can barely make a dent in my portion, but the team ensure none of it goes to waste, taking home the leftovers for their families.
What I love about NewDay is it doesn’t believe in leftovers.
2023 is its Year of Overflow. With the resources it has, and foundational belief in the kindness of a God who abundantly blesses, NewDay is pouring this out into this previously neglected community, giving the best it can to each person who comes through its doors, impacting and transforming lives, one person at a time.
NewDay and NDU (NewDay United) have been used interchangeably throughout this piece.