Litsemba Centre Background

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The Litsemba Centre (Hope Centre) is located in the middle of a South African township called Daantjie. Many years ago it was built by the father of the present chief, Chief Nkosi. It was used as a community centre, with different micro enterprises situated on the premises.

 

In late 2009, the present chief and his wife decided to rent the centre to Mamkhulu.org and a group of other organizations, including Emoyeni Ministries and Meniscus. It was given to them on the understanding that they would renovate the building and turn it into a youth centre for the community. Since December 2009, renovations have been taking place, turning the Litsemba Centre into a hive of activity. All of the rooms in the building had to be cleaned, painted and the broken garage doors removed. Then the walls had to be filled and completed with a door and a window to provide some security. Some of the boys who are living in the building have been involved in the renovations, giving them a real investment in their future.

In late 2009, the former “Fundza Centre” (now the Litsemba Centre) was donated to Mamkhulu.org. Four organizations decided to work together to develop it as a hub for youth development and support in the area. In the days of the former Kangwane Homelands, this centre was built by Chief Daantjie as a commercial centre for the community.  A number of small businesses grew up inside its walls. In 2003 it was abandoned and until 2009, it was a place where local people stored their various goods.

The vision for the Litsemba Centre is to provide accommodation and care for youth (boys) who have no homes. A number of youth who are already trained as counselors are the house parents and support for the boys who are given refuge.

It is a long term residence for these youth, where the boys stay for a period of time while they find other accommodation. The centre has room for 4 boys over 16 years of age. The reason that this age has been targeted is because children under 16 years have access to government support, but once they reach 16 years (18 years by law) in reality, they have few options.

Orphans in Africa have many problems. One consistent problem is that of the loss of their homes to greedy relatives. If the caregiver or guardian passes away without leaving a will stating that the child/youth owns the house upon the death of the guardian, the child/youth is often thrown out of the house and left to fend for himself / herself on the streets. This leads to drug use, prostitution and crime. The Litsemba Centre is providing safe refuge for these youth until alternative homes can be found.

While realizing the mission and vision of each of the organizations, the Litsemba Centre is a place where skills and visions are merged in order to support orphans and vulnerable children and youth in the local community. Working together presents it challenges, as each organization has boards and people, but by working together towards a common goal, we are achieving far more than any of the individual organizations could hope to achieve.

The organizations first came together to renovate and re-create the centre to become a place of refuge for various young men who were in need of shelter. These young men formed the core group of the residents in the centre, and the dreams for the future were built around the skills of all those involved. The group also realized that the centre had huge potential as a community youth centre because of its central location in the township.


With the youth as the builders, with guidance from some older people, the renovations took place. Some of these youth who took ownership of the centre and began the renovations had started out as street kids themselves in the local community.

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Through the work of the pastoral team, they began to learn the skills of laying bricks and plastering. Some of the walls were not straight, some of the floors not flat, but the pride that developed in the youth was worth the challenges.


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As their skills developed, they began to move more quickly, and under the tutoring of the older men, they learned how to plumb lines, put in pipes, lay bricks, and plaster the walls. They learned how not to paint everything in sight when painting a wall and how to work as a team even when there were differences in opinion.


Today the centre has a toilet block, 2 storage rooms (one being a clothing bank)), 3 bedrooms, 2 training rooms, 3 offices, a counseling room, a creche for small children and a large garden area for learning farming skills. Best of all, the centre has already become a place where youth from the community can congregate and learn together. Sitting on bricks, they join the bible studies and plan together.


The centre was the main hub of the camps which were held in the schools in the local area in 2010.  All the cooking for the +- 1000 kids  took place at the centre (we try to hire older orphans to do the cooking) and is driven to the schools.  All the supplies and equipment was housed at the centre with youth leaders using it as a meeting place each day to talk, strategize and organize their individual programmes.

Today, the centre is used as a drop-in centre for the children and youth Mamkhulu.org works with.  All the rooms are used to their fullest potential and a number of new ministries are taking place inside its walls.

Blocking in the kitchen by youth employed to do the renovations. The boy on the right is Sipho Nkosi, a former street kid who has learned construction skills in the process of renovating the Litsemba Centre. Without his perseverence we would not have made such good progress.

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