Raising funds to help former gangsters and drug abusers start a new life
Each year Solihull Methodist raises money for an important cause, alternately at home or overseas. One of our previous ministers is now a leading volunteer helping a church – the First Community Resource Centre – reduce gang violence in the depressed HANOVER PARK* district of Cape Town by rehabilitating former gang members and drug abusers at a place called CAMP JOY*..
The Centre has an IT system called Ceasefire developed in Chicago. Microphones on lamp posts relay the sound of gunfire and give its location within 2-3 seconds.
The Church has gained the trust of the local community. It does not inform on gang activities. Instead it provides meals every day and organises many community activities. Mums, grandmas and others will now say to their young men “Give the Centre a chance.”
As a result, the Centre has turned around some former gang members. Some are now INTERRUPTERS* who get to the scene of the gunfire within 3 minutes. They try to establish the facts, cool things down and offer to mediate. They have credibility because they speak the language of the street. It still takes great courage.
Re-building lives takes place at CAMP JOY*. The counsellors there do not condemn. They know the chaos former gang members come from and the drug problems most have. They know they must offer something better if lives are to change. Facilities at Camp Joy are spartan with showers and washrooms currently so bad residents must wash in the kitchen. These need urgent renovation
At least £9,000 is needed.
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* HANOVER PARK was resettled under the apartheid regime. Resettlement broke the unofficial links which bind a community together. Poor housing, high unemployment, family breakdown and consequent low expectations led to gangs, drug running, competition between gangs, and a high murder rate. Hanover Park is one of the most dangerous ganglands in the World.
* AN INTERRUPTER’S STORY: Gang identity is so strong – I spent 20 years with the Americans Gang. It becomes part of your identity – all you have ever known. Changing is a daily battle. You have to find a new identity. That can be hard you know. But the purpose in your life makes it easier. My life shows others that change is possible. That keeps me going. We provide hope for the hopeless. Wilfred McKay
* CAMP JOY was an abandoned, vandalised building when taken over. There is a market garden there now, a computer room where residents can learn IT skills and other training rooms. But though volunteers have done what they can to improve the buildings the showers and washrooms need trade skills that they do not have.
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