A View from the Front Line:
Rays of Hope has been touching and changing lives for good within the community of Alexandra township for 29 years. Alex is home to 1-million people living in 8km2 on the edge of Sandton. It is the primary destination to which rural immigration is directed; hence it is a diverse population, with a myriad of challenges.
Rays of Hope works to stabilise and accelerate the development of resilient, skilled individuals and families that will pave the way for future generations. Their work focuses on three areas: education, orphaned and vulnerable children, and work readiness (through the Level 1 BBBEE company owned by Rays of Hope – AlexWorks). It is hands-on, long term work, which has impacted thousands of individuals and families through the years.
Our biggest programme pre COVID-19 was our RoseAct Saturday School programme that teaches English and Maths to 300 young people from Alexandra in Grades 4 to 9 every Saturday. This programme has been running for 28 years and has positively impacted thousands of young people by adding to what they learn at school, making them better able to cope and succeed. The model is based on a very active volunteer base and all the tutors are volunteers from both Alex (many ex-students or parents of students) and the surrounding communities. In addition, many other activities are undertaken to further assist and support the students and their parents, such as holiday clubs, parents’ workshops and a top-achievers camp at the end of the year.
Our greatest touch programme is Ithemba Labantwana which works with 150 young people from Alexandra (and their families / guardians / caregivers) who have been identified as vulnerable in the community. The programme partners with the family unit and provides physical, educational, emotional, social and spiritual support. While tragedy is the common thread that binds the 30 families that are part of the programme together; the primary goal is to restore hope and dignity by working with the families in the community. Most children have experienced the loss of one or both parents, some have also experienced abandonment, abuse or neglect. All the children involved in the programme live in Alexandra where they are looked after by family members, usually a sibling, aunt or grandparent. They have been included because of their desperate circumstances.
When the pandemic hit and lock-down started, life in Alex changed completely. Although people wanted to social distance, it was almost impossible because of living conditions. People didn’t have the tools to protect against COVID, e.g., soap, ready access to water, sanitisers and masks. Many stopped earning as they worked for daily, weekly, and monthly wages in formal and informal sector businesses. Small businesses lost income, and thousands of people suffered from hunger and a bleak future. Many children who were fed at schools, creches and tertiary institutions faced hunger in their homes as they were forced to stay at home.
In response to the crisis, Rays of Hope launched a campaign called #Hope4Alex, which sourced funds from individuals, corporates, and trusts locally and abroad, which was used to buy, pack and deliver hampers of food to vulnerable families in Alex. Through our network of over 30 organisations across Alex and with the help of many volunteers, we were able to deliver close to 9,500 hampers which, on average, fed a family of 6 people for 3 weeks. We also delivered bulk food to organisations caring for the aged and ill. Overall, we provided food to over 60,000 in just 3 months.
In June, we launched #Hope4Alex Phase II, which included wider-ranging support for the community, from food to winter warmth (clothing, blankets, etc.), educational support for our Saturday school children, to temperature screening and referrals for COVID-19 testing, and counselling for trauma, violence and other issues.
However, at the start of July, we decided to pull back as the number of infections soared in Gauteng. Due to the high-contact nature our operations, the risk to our team became too high. It was then that we turned to vouchering as a way to deliver our services in a safer manner.
We are continuing our efforts to feed Alex and we ask that you join us with your support.