About twelve years ago, Stephanie Henderson employed Ella Bailey as her domestic worker to clean her home in Wellington and look after her children. The two women came from completely different backgrounds, but had one thing in common – compassion.
They spent many-a Sunday morning talking about the heart-breaking reality of desperately hungry children in the communities surrounding Wellington.
“Ella would always tell me about the little children who would arrive at her house after dark, asking for some food to eat,” Stephanie recalls.
“They’d knock on my door at night telling me how hungry they were. When I’d ask where their moms were, they didn’t really know. So, I’d take them in, give them some bread (because that’s all I had in the house) and give them a place to sleep,” adds Ella.
When a domestic worker and her employer take hands
Stephanie and Ella decided that they would start working together to feed at least a few children in the area – 23 to be exact. They started making sandwiches in the kitchen of Ella’s tiny home. Although it was small and not fully equipped, her home was a lighthouse of hope to which those in need would gravitate.
Stephanie soon realised that the need in Ella’s community went far beyond mere hunger. All around her she saw children who were cold, not going to school or ill-equipped for their schooling.
“I started talking about it to my friends and spreading the word through our church bulletin,” Stephanie says. “As interest grew and more people wanted to help out, I started putting together an email newsletter, highlighting specific needs.”
Moms for Wellington was born
Within no time they found themselves at the centre of a network of caring people who were helping more than 500 children in the communities of EGOLI (Carterville & New Rest), Weltevrede, Van Wyksvlei and Hillcrest.
Since 2008, Moms for Wellington has grown into an organisation with various facets and five targeted programmes – all centred around child welfare.
They offer two ECD programmes for children between the ages of three and six to help prepare them for school.
“While we initially tried to help everyone, it soon emerged that this was the most important age group. We realised that if we could just help children be more prepared for school, their chances of staying there would increase dramatically, which would keep them off the streets and hopefully improve their chances for a better life.”
Apart from these ECD programmes, Moms for Wellington also offers training for parents, as well as a programme for people with special needs.
The maternal heart of God in action
“We want people to know that what we do isn’t just for mothers or women,” says Stephanie. “We see our organisation as an expression of the maternal heart of God and strive to keep being His hands wherever we can serve.”
While the communities were initially suspicious of Moms for Wellington and their intentions, they soon discovered that they had no hidden agenda. Their only goal was to help the children in these communities grow healthy and excel.
Soon, mothers from these communities started volunteering their time or talents – from helping with the ECD programmes to cooking nutritious meals.
Currently, Moms for Wellington has 65 volunteers, most of which have emerged from the very communities they are serving.
What do you have in your hand?
“We’re firm believers of the fact that you already have exactly what you need to give in your hand,” Stephanie says. “All you have to do is open it.”
With this uncomplicated approach to giving and change, Moms for Wellington has inspired countless women and men in the communities they work in to make contributions, no matter how small they might seem.
“It’s like the story of the two fishes and five loaves in The Bible. When you entrust that gift to God, He will ensure that its goodness will multiply.”
The human element – Marc’s story
One of their most encouraging success stories, is that of Marc *, a little boy who enrolled in Moms for Wellington’s ECD programme at the age of two.
Unfortunately, his mom was too ill to take care of him and when he started school, he dropped out within the first few weeks.
After his mother passed away, he was taken into foster care by Valcare member organisation, Mosaic. He was put back on the ECD programme at Moms for Wellington until he could enrol for Grade 3.
Although he didn’t complete his first two grades, an aptitude test found him more than ready for Grade 3. He successfully reintegrated in school and is still excelling academically and socially.
“The saying ‘it takes the village to raise a child’ is practically proven here. Collaboration really makes a difference. We are supported by other local nonprofits like Mosaic, Khula and Inceba and, in turn, we support them too,” says Stephanie.
Challenges and joys
Although there are many challenges, it always go hand-in-hand with great joy. Both Stephanie and Ella agree that, not a single volunteer or staff member has remained unchanged by their work.
“One of our greatest gifts, is being witness to the immense spiritual growth of those around us,” says Stephanie. “That’s how we know that our work is making a real difference.”
Today, Moms for Wellington is known throughout the various communities on the outskirts of this picturesque Cape Winelands town as an organisation that truly cares unconditionally.
Of course, as with any journey worth taking, establishing themselves in this role did not just happen overnight. It took time, commitment and grit – all through, as they ladies would tell you, by God’s grace.
If you would like to contribute to the mission of Moms for Wellington through funding or volunteering, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.