Jewel of Alex

Alexandra commonly known as Alex is a township in Johannesburg and it is one of the poorest urban areas in South Africa. Within this township lies St. Hubert Catholic Church which hosts Ithubelisha programme for girls aged 9 – 17 years.

Ithubelisha means new beginnings in isiZulu, this is what we aspire for the girls: new beginnings in the way they confront life: with hope and a spark of life for their future.

Many of the girls enlisted for Ithubelisha activities come from poor backgrounds and this fact impedes them from accessing some of the basic needs. The club was thus set up to serve as a haven for girls to learn virtues that would mould them into individuals who will in future drive positive change in their lives and that of their families. This is realized through classes, games, movies, ballet sessions and community service at old people’s homes or orphanages. The girls are also taught culinary skills which enable them to prepare a variety of meals as well as desserts. Besides this, they are engaged in craft making and the girls produce handmade items such as gift cards for different occasions (e.g. mother’s day), stationery holders, book marks, etc.

Every year the girls showcase their culinary skills by hosting a family day event in which all their parents and siblings come together to enjoy a three course meal prepared by the girls. Recently, the girls participated in a Master Chef Competition in which they were required to do fruit craft, prepare a smoothie and cake decoration. Professionals from the hospitality industry volunteered to serve as judges for the competition. It was impressive to see how hard each of the teams worked to produce the above mentioned items and how they tried to help each other out to finish the work on time. For many of the girls the culinary skills session is one of the most exciting activities in the club and they look forward to practice what they have learnt at home. Some of their mothers call saying how they have been pressurized to buy ingredients so that their daughters can make a meal at home. In the case of many of the young girls aged 9 – 12 years, the culinary session at the club is their first experience of preparing a meal. In fact, some learn how to turn on the stove for the first time at the club. The experience has been very good because the mothers tell us that they now see their daughters making an effort to help out in the work of the home. This has also been possible because we not only teach them how to cook, but also how to clean the entire facility with the appropriate cleaning materials.

Some of the girls were asked why they come to the club. One replied, “I initially came because my mother said so, but now I come because each Saturday I learn something new and I am slowly appreciating the value of interacting with other people.” Another said, “It is so much fun being here. Before joining the club, I spent all my Saturdays at home in routine work, watching TV and I had no friends. It is different now and the experience is amazing. “All in all, Ithubelisha Club provides a ray of hope to the community we serve in Alexandra. Many of the girls love being at the club because the activities are both fun and educational.

E. T.