Vukasebenze (meaning “wake up and work” in Xhosa) was established in 2008 after a needs analysis was carried out in Cradock. 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 and were homeless.

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. During school holidays this number increases as children who normally get their food from the school feeding schemes also come to Vukasebebze for meals.

The services they offer have expanded beyond meals and numerous income generating projects are run:

  • KITCHEN: Food distribution, making and selling of bread, cakes, scones, and curry bunnies
  • SECOND HAND SHOP: Clothes, blankets and other household items are donated to Vukasebenze and then sold at exceptionally cheap prices.
  • LIBRARY: Sell magazines and books from public donations
  • COMPUTERS: 5 computers are on hand and training to the underprivileged is offered for a very small fee.
  • NEEDLEWORK: Repairs are done to clothes and ladies are trained to do needlework and sewing. These items are then sold to the public.
  • WOODWORK: Training is offered to enable restoration and making of furniture which is sold to the public.
  • GARDEN: Vegetable gardens provide vegetables for the daily meals handed out.
  • WASHING PROJECT: Laundry service offered to the public
  • JOB CREATION: 14 staff members from all communities including a Downs Syndrome young man and an older gentleman with learning difficulties. Initially they were all voluntary workers, but recently have been given a small weekly stipend.
  • SLEEPING FACILTIES: 6 rooms were built by friends of Vukasebenze 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, while some groups (e.g. church groups) pay R30 per person per night, and individuals pay R50 per person per night. All those using the sleeping facilities may only stay for 3 nights.

Vukasebenze has a very progressive and valuable 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 R30 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. Others must pick up plastic or glass bottles which they hand in for food. We then sell it for an income recycling. 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 an old age grant. This is also sponsored by the public.”

Vukasebenze is one of the overnight stops on the Unogwaja Challenge, where the entire team is fed and given a bed by the generous hosts. For the team, it is a humbling experience to fully see and experience where some of their fundraising efforts are effecting change.