Mould Empower Serve (MES) celebrated 30 years of empowering people to live independent, sustainable and meaningful lives, with members of its four branches on Wednesday July 27.
The event at the Metronoom Theatre at the Nobel Park Shopping Centre reflected on the past 30 years, showing how the organisation has grown.
MES started its journey at the Johannesburg Dutch Reformed Church in 1987. In 1994, it launched the Othandweni Street Youth Programme and the first group of school-going youth was taken off the streets.
MES Cape Town’s Hilke Erasmus spoke about what MES has achieved over the years, including the Johannesburg Outreach Project launched in 1996.
“As most outreach projects, we started as a soup kitchen,” she joked.
But it was a foot in the door for the organisation, helping it build relationships with people living on the streets.
In 2008, the Bellville Care Mission merged with MES, and the Cape Town branch was established.
Outgoing MES Cape Town branch manager Ilse Maartens was at the helm since it started and now hands over to Lilly Franks, of Gauteng.
Ms Maartens told how the branch had itself been “homeless” for two years after losing its drop-in centre in 2010.
In 2013 it launched a meal voucher programme as part of the City of Cape Town’s Give Responsibly Campaign, leading to the transformation of the soup kitchen into a canteen with paid services.
“This was a dream that didn’t have words in the beginning,” said Ms Maartens
She shared a story of a prostitute who was thrown out of a third-floor flat by her pimp in Bellville after he twisted the woman’s arm.
“It was amazing to see the look on her face when we put her on a bus back home to Harare. It’s about dignity and seeing people the way that God sees them,” she said.
Incoming MES Cape Town branch manager Ms Franks said the focus of MES’s four branches around the country was “changing the heart of the city”.
Ms Franks spoke about MES’s upcoming projects, including the Safe Info Space, which will offer homeless people in Bellville a safe place to sleep at night (“Project for Bellville’s homeless,” Northern News, July 28).
“Coming from Gauteng, I never realised how big the homeless situation is until I started working in Bellville,” she said.
MES vice chairman Fanie Botha thanked Ms Maartens for her hard work
“It wasn’t always easy, especially when it came to funding, but she always found a way to make it work. I am privileged to have worked with her and to be part of MES,” he said.