Children make sleeping bags for homeless

Raymondo Timm, Walid Swartbooi and Matthew Hendricks, all from Strandfontein.

A Strandfontein community worker has challenged the community to be of service to those living on the streets.

Small Beginnings, a non-profit organisation, and the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) Churches hosted a school holiday programme at the community hall, in Cruiser Street, Strandfontein, between Monday June 24 and Friday June 28.

Co-ordinator Priscilla George said the focus of the programme was to make sleeping bags for the homeless.

“In and among the games, songs, dance, meals and snacks, we focused on making sleeping bags and we linked up with the Rotary Club, who showed us how to make it and will be giving us the materials,” she said.

Before the holiday programme Jo Maxwell, who invented “The Good Night and God Bless Waterproof sleeping bags”, in 2005 as a temporary emergency measure for night shelters, homeless people, refugees or those living in damp shacks, showed Ms George and her volunteers how to make it.

A sleeping bag is made from 60 micron recycled plastic bags, newspaper and packing tape, which costs about R6.

The bag itself has a length of 1.5 metres and a width of under a metre and has 10 layers of newspaper on each side.

“I thought it would be good for the young people to craft something, which they could share with people living on the street,” she said. “It was important that the children learn a skill and be of service to their community,” said Ms George.

She usually hosts two programmes a year during the winter and summer school holiday to keep the children off the streets.

The 60 to 140 children who attended the week-long programme were split into groups to assemble the sleeping bags. they stck a note with all their signatures on the finished bag.

Ms George said that many of the young people who attend the programmes come from vulnerable households and that was it not for thi initiative, they could very well be left unattended and become victims of crime.

It is part of the province’s Youth Safety and Religious Programme (YSRP).

Ms George, a Sunday school teacher by profession, said beyond the holiday programme, she would teach groups of 10 to 20 people to make the sleeping bags, accumulate them and hand it over to the homeless.

Community Safety MEC, Albert Fritz, councillor for Ward 43 Elton Jansen and DA Proportional Representative (PR) councillor Bernadette Clarke visited the programme on Thursday June 27.

The objectives of the YRSP are to: fund the religious sector to co-produce conditions best suited for youth to feel safer during school holidays; involve youth in positive and constructive activities conducted by the religious fraternity to divert youth away from crime, gangsterism, drug abuse and anti -social behaviour; and to enhance the levels of active citizenship within high risk communities by acknowledging the critical role played by the religious fraternity towards increasing safety.

The number of YSRP programmes in the province has increased from 44 in 2012, when it was piloted, to 403 programmes now.

Mr Fritz said: “The YSRP is a religious holiday programme which promotes safety by keeping young people off the streets and out of harm’s way during the holidays. I am pleased to see that initiatives such as these are keeping our children safe and out of the prying hands of criminals and gangsters.”

In 2012 the department took a strategic decision to fund religious institutions to implement safety promotion initiatives for young people during school holidays. The project has enjoyed significant support from religious institutions.

Mr Fritz said they will continue to implement and support initiatives which safe-guard the province’s young people.

Anyone who would like to learn how to make the sleeping bags can email Ms George on pgeorge@live.co.za and during their spare time volunteer to make them at the community centre.