SHADE—A Refuge for Many
By Judith Santiago**
August 4, 2009—Charles,* a young man from Zimbabwe, is the sole bread winner for his family. In the midst of his country’s economic meltdown, famine and poverty troubles, Charles was determined to feed his family for at least one week. The dire circumstances in his home country drove him to brave Africa’s Limpopo River, a gateway to the rest of Africa where opportunities for employment are possible.
With no legal papers or passport in hand, Charles continued across Zimbabwe’s border into the bush through Kruger National Park, a large game reserve in the northeast region of South Africa. He managed to escape encounters with soldiers on border patrol, jumping over dangerous electrical fences and going without food or water for days. He traveled nearly 25 miles by foot.
During his journey, Charles was able to obtain makeshift papers that would help him get a job. But it wasn’t until he arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, where he received refugee assistance and the proper legal documentation necessary for employment. His help came from SHADE (Sojourner, Help, Advocacy, Development, Education), a ministry supported by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Now Charles has hope that he can care for his family back home.
“People in Africa are seeking peaceful refuge because of war, poverty and violence,” said the Rev. Tembo Kalenga, director of SHADE. “We facilitate the necessary paperwork for those displaced by these circumstances and help them get on their feet.”
Empowerment through Life Skills
SHADE’s refugee program is one among many services the ministry offers to thousands of sojourners looking for refuge. A program of Woodstock Methodist Church in Southern Africa and member church within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, SHADE has a network of 28 satellite projects in 20 African countries that provide work opportunities through various life skills training courses. These courses include literacy skills development, sewing, food preparation classes, sustainable food gardens, fish ponds, and more. SHADE’s life skills training program empowers individuals to resume their normal lives after experiencing trauma and displacement from conflict or economic hardship.
Refuge from Xenophobic Attacks
UMCOR supports SHADE’s relief work for displaced persons, refugees and immigrants from Zimbabwe, Somalia, Rwanda, and Malawi who were affected by last year’s xenophobic violence.
UMCOR provided emergency assistance to help the Methodist Church of Southern Africa manage the humanitarian crisis when violence broke out in Alexander, an area north of Johannesburg. From that event, thousands of people were displaced, several dozen killed and a large number of people were injured. The crisis placed a huge strain on the church as it attempted to care for as many as 30,000 people. In fact, many churches within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa housed over a thousand people in their churches and buildings for months during the crisis.
Beni* from Zimbabwe drove a truck transporting children to and from school in South Africa. One day, his boss confronted him telling him that because he was a foreigner that he no longer had permission to work and drive the children. His boss feared being attacked by his own people for employing Beni. The incident left Beni on the roadside for days with nowhere to turn. Then a passerby took notice of Beni and drove him to SHADE where he received food and shelter.
Food for the Hungry
Thankfully, SHADE is a place where Beni could get a good meal. Every week, SHADE’s Street People Feeding Program distributes food to the hungry in Cape Town. The ministry also operates 16 feeding programs that support 10,000 vulnerable children including orphans in 20 African countries who live in extreme poverty. With UMCOR’s support, SHADE is able to provide nourishing meals to those lacking the daily nutrients to survive. In addition, SHADE’s sustainable agriculture and farming activities which include poultry sheds, food gardens and fish ponds, empower communities throughout Africa to produce and sell their own produce to make a living. Those afflicted with HIV/AIDS especially benefit from this program, as it helps to strengthen and build their immune system.
HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention
SHADE is a strong advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS. SHADE raises awareness about HIV/AIDS and trains community activists to inform surrounding communities about its causes and educates populations on preventive measures. Because HIV/AIDS is such a personal issue, SHADE encourages people to break their silence about the disease to help educate others.
“While war and poverty exacerbate the effect of AIDS, silence and ignorance are the principal killers,” said Rev. Kalenga. Getting women to admit they have the disease is the first step in their healing.
Sister 2 Sister
SHADE’s Sister 2 Sister network helps in this area of reaching out to women vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Women comprise about half of all people living with HIV worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the epidemic is worst, they make up an estimated 57 percent of adults living with HIV. Three quarters of young people living with HIV on the continent are young women aged 15-24. Many young girls are susceptible to the HIV/AIDS virus because they rely on prostitution as a way to escape their poor socio-economic circumstances.
Sister 2 Sister helps women and young girls face the truth about their illness. Kalenga says that when one person teaches a woman a new skill, it does not take long for those skills to spread throughout her community. In the same way, women are empowered to share their experiences and what they know about HIV/AIDS to inform and encourage others to speak up. The ministry raising issues on nutrition, sexual behavior, HIV/AIDS education, and mobilizes churches to action to combat HIV/AIDS.
How You Can Help
For 10 years, SHADE with the help of UMCOR, has been winning the war against violence, HIV/AIDS, hunger and poverty. The ministry is a refuge for thousands of displaced people, including the hungry and poor, vulnerable women, children and orphans. SHADE empowers African communities to live healthier lives and teaches them how to become self-sufficient through income-generating practices, education, and entrepreneurial mentorship and training.
*Names have been changed.
**Santiago is a Program Coordinator for UMCOR Communications.