Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Project HOPE South Africa

2009 has been a successful year for Project HOPE in South Africa. Our Village Saving Fund (VSF) program closed out successfully benefiting almost 300 orphans and vulnerable children(OVC) in the process and helping many caregivers overcome problems that they were facing.

An example of this is a thank you letter that Project HOPE received from one of the participants:

My name is Dipuo Schalkwyk. I am 50 years old. I stay with my two daughters and 2 grandchildren. I joined the VSF group in May 2009. When I joined, life was very tough because there was no one working at home. I used to go to the Catholic Church every morning to get some food. Some of the days I used to come back home empty handed because there was no food. I tried to apply for the government grant and they told me to wait until I’m 60 years. My daughters have been trying to look for jobs for many years and till today they are still at home. My two grandchildren do get their child support grant but it is not enough. This money is supposed to take the kids to the crèche and feed them. Because there was no income in the house, we used to buy food with it and the children did not go to school. I was hesitating to join the VSF because I didn’t know what it was and how it could help me. Project HOPE staff asked me to give it a try and see the result after six months. Two months after I joined, I borrowed R200.00 and we bought twenty litres of paraffin. My daughters sold that paraffin in a week and it was finished. We bought a further 20 litres for four weeks and the response was positive, we decided to borrow R600.00 to add to what we had and we bought 100l of paraffin. Today I am not depending on someone to give me handouts. I don’t waste my time by going to church and wait for something that I am not sure whether I will get it or not. Since joining the VSF a number of positive changes have occurred: 1) My health has improved and my BP is down to normal again - my secret is eating healthy and not stressing anymore. 2) We eat vegetables every day and meat at least twice a week. 3) For the first time I have a savings account. 4) I am part of the Project HOPE food gardening program where I have been given land and seeds and am growing a variety of fruits and vegetables.”

The Social Fund, which is a form of group insurance used by members of the group in times of emergencies was recently used to allow a participant to travel back home to attend the funeral of his father and see his family for the first time in 18 years! He is one of our male participants in our men’s VSF group:

“I was born in North West Province. When I came here (West Rand), I worked for the mines. When the mines retrenched us, I did not go back home because I was hoping to find another job. Unfortunately it did not happen like that. I am staying alone in a one room shack. The last time I saw my family it was 18 years ago. I did not have money to go there. I joined this Village Savings Fund in May. I did not know what it was. At first I thought it was a woman thing. After I attended a few meetings and got some training, I began to understand it. I started to save a little money every week. I am not working and my family is in North West Province. In September this year, somebody told me that my dad had passed away; I did not know how I was going to bury my dad. I told some of the men in my group about my problem, they told me that I qualified to be given money for the transport to go and bury my dad. I was so excited when I received this R200.00 to go home. Everybody was excited to see me after so many years. Thank you Project HOPE for making this possible.”

As you can hopefully see through these couple of testimonies, it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in people’s lives here in South Africa.

Our team here, myself included, thanks you for your generous support of our program here, and wishes you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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