Vukusebenze (meaning “wake up and work” in Xhosa) was established 7 years ago 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 hunger 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 Vukusebebze for meals.

The services they offer have expanded beyond meals to:

  • KITCHEN: Food distribution, making and selling of bread, cakes, scones, and curry bunnies
  • SECOND HAND SHOP: Clothes, blankets and other household items sold at exceptionally cheap prices.
  • LIBRARY: Sell magazines and books from public donations
  • COMPUTERS: 5 computers and offer training to underprivileged
  • NEEDLEWORK: Repairs make clothes and train ladies to do needlework and sewing.
  • WOODWORK: Restoration, training and garden furniture –to sell
  • GARDEN: Produce our own vegetables for meals provided
  • 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 Vukusebenza 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, other such as church and other groups pay R30 per person per night and other individuals pay R50 per person per night. All those using the sleeping facilities may only stay for 3 nights.

Gussie, the guiding light of Vukusebenze, is a retired teacher with a passion for the disabled, poor and jobless. She has been at the shelter from its inception. Recently her husband has joined her and assists with all the woodwork, gardening, recycling and overall maintenance of the building and appliances. She 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 old age grant. This is also sponsored by the public.”