Some husbands get nervous when their wives go to Woolies…Toby starts twitching when I mention I’m going past the shelter. Last time I came home with a bakkie load of things which would have included 2 piglets if they were for sale! Besides being a completely humbling experience I always pick up some gems there – we’ve been searching online for black Victorian tiles that are no longer made, to fix our kitchen..couldn’t believe it when I saw 4 crates of them there at my last visit. Then there’s the 30 liter glass jar that I’ve no idea what to do with but it was awesome (and only 10 bucks)…and the old wooden door frames I’m going to put mirrors in and sell at the Farmers Market. And a colour Laser printer for my new office 😃.
The saying goes that you can judge a town by the way it treats the less fortunate…that is very true. The vibe at the shelter is warm, upbeat and friendly…the people look genuinely happy to work there and Gussie is an incredible woman, the driving force and life of the place.
NGO and BEE compliant, Vukusebenze literally means “wake up and work” in Xhosa. It was established 7 years ago by Gussie Botha. Through community led workshops it was noted that there was a great need for a shelter for the large numbers of aged, disabled and jobless Cradock residents who went hungry.
The shelter was started with the generous purchase of its building by a local resident, Mr Stander. From its humble beginnings of one pot and a small gas stove, feeding 5 people on its first day, the shelter now feeds up to 120 people a day. On weekends the staff have a break and weekend groups are organized to prepare the meals. Schools such as St Andrews are regular volunteers. During school holidays this number increases as children who normally get their food from the school feeding schemes also come to Vukusebebze for meals. Gussie has recently started ‘Meals on Wheels’, a great initiative where companies sponsor meals for the aged that cannot get the shelter. R160 will sponsor one old age pensioners meals for a month. Currently they feed 20 old age pensioners.
The services they offer have expanded beyond meals to:
KITCHEN: Food distribution, making and selling of bread, cakes, scones, and curry bunnies
SECOND HAND SHOP: Clothes, blankets and other household items sold at exceptionally cheap prices and given to the poor for no cost.
LIBRARY: Sells magazines and books from public donations
COMPUTERS: 5 computers and provides training to underprivileged
NEEDLEWORK: they do repairs, make clothes and train ladies to do needlework and sewing. After completing the training the learners receive a sewing machine with which to start their own business.
WOODWORK: Restoration, training and selling garden furniture.
GARDEN: Produce their our own vegetables for meals provided
LAUNDRY PROJECT: Laundry service offered to the public and guesthouses, ironing press kindly donated by Die Tuishuise. This is very well supported by local businesses.
JOB CREATION: 14 staff members from all communities including people with disabilities. Initially they were all voluntary workers, but recently have been given a small weekly stipend
ACCOMODATION FACILTIES: 6 rooms (28 beds) were built by friends of Vukusebenza from the Netherlands. The bedding and towels were donated. After 7 years these sleeping facilities have become a big income generator. Some people do not have the means to pay, other such as church and other groups pay R30 per person per night and other individuals pay R50 per person per night. Cyclists and groups such as Nuogwaja make use of this accommodation every year.
Gussies philosophy on giving:
“Here we have a system where we say we have to work to eat. So all people who come to eat must have a ticket for a meal. This they get from people who sponsor a book at R50 for ten tickets where people beg for money or food they are given a ticket which they bring and hand in for a plate of food. These ticket books can be purchased from the ACVV and all the NG churches in Cradock. Others must pick up plastic or glass bottles which they hand in for food. We then sell it for an income recycling, simultaneously tidying up Cradock. We also use our discretion and at times will give food to someone who did not visit the shelter. We also have meals on wheels for pensioners who live alone with only old age grant. This is also sponsored by the public.”
This place is inspiring…pay them a visit and ask for a tour…I promise you will leave with a happy heart and a renewed faith in humanity.
If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, you can contact them here:
5 Cawood Street, Cradock, 5881
Contact Person – Mrs AJ Botha
048 8815 177
EDITED TO UPDATE: 19 March…
Im very sad to relay the passing of both Gussie and her husband within days of each other (completely unrelated incidents). I still vist the shelter on a weekly basis and am happy to report it is going stronger than ever and is in the most capable hands. The staff that worked with Gussie have carried on her vision – I am sure she is smiling down at them!