Why the involvement?
Research conducted by ATS show many children and youths in South Africa to be seriously deprived, in that they grow up without adequate adult supervision and, consequently, without adequate education or moral and ethical guidance (“ATS Research Report”, June 2011). To make matters worse, this group is rapidly expanding, with no sign of this trend abating any time soon.
Of the many social ills associated with this group, it is its members' utter vulnerability to detrimental life-style choices, such as drug abuse and engaging in small-time criminal activities merely to stay alive, that gives cause for the deepest concern.
This phenomenon has escalated from being an insidious and systemic malignancy into a complex, full-blown scourge, as many of today's parents themselves were milieu-impaired children. Sadly, the current socio-economic conditions and the inadequate educational system in our country provide neither any workable solutions nor any real opportunities to deal with and rectify the situation.
The need for humanitarian aid in South Africa is so prevalent and so pressing that grass-roots level leaders need to be equipped as social entrepreneurs – individuals with the rare ability not only to find innovative solutions to vexing social problems but also to apply them in difficult circumstances.
What are the focus areas?
ATS's participatory community-development programme focuses on areas of opportunity. These areas were uncovered in the course of research undertaken in a bid to gain insight into the current conditions in the participant's community. Moving forward from the current conditions to a more generative and directed future, ATS has identified four areas of opportunity that will serve as a springboard for translating innovative ideas and workable solutions into actions (“ATS Research Report”, June 2011).
In order to do this, we needed to find answers to the following hard questions first:
- How might we facilitate the development of a marginalised community into an economic hub through entrepreneurial ventures?
- How might we strengthen and equip families who can foster healthy, well-adjusted and capable family members? How might we holistically address, among others, aspects such as childcare and education, HIV/AIDS prevention, psychological support of teenage mothers and the functional integration of young men into the family structure?
- How might we facilitate the access of existing resources, the creation of new resources and the re-allocation of existing resources in order to enhance the quality of life within the community?
- How might we equip each local “faith-based” group to become a source of relevant and important information pertaining to the quality of life of the community?
How will ATS monitor the success of the programme?
ATS's policy is that all projects and community initiatives should be based on and guided by research findings, and that they should be evaluated continuously through independent research studies. Learners enrolled for honours, master's and doctoral degree studies should conduct the said research studies, the results of which should be submitted for academic publications.
At a grass-roots level, the participatory leader should monitor the programme continually. Challenges and unforeseen circumstances should be reported to ATS directly, whereupon the institution will, depending on the type of challenge or the set of circumstances, seek input from the relevant experts and/or partners and report back to the leader. In addition, ATS will use a project plan to monitor progress. This cycle of reporting and giving feedback is the first step in equipping “faith-based” groups with sources of relevant and important information.
The outcomes ATS plans to achieve and monitor are to
- create food-producing and farming systems that will improve and sustain ecological, economic and social health through systemic, community-based and self-organising governance.
- increase the monthly income of family households through entrepreneurial ventures. ATS aims at outperforming the current child grant, which, in many cases, constitutes the main source of income for the majority of families (“ATS Research Report”, June 2011).
- increase the number of young adults involved in sustainable, income-generating entrepreneurial ventures.
- establish informal pre-school groups, run by the community, cognitively to stimulate, emotionally to nurture and morally to guide young children.
- mobilise young men to become actively involved in promoting the general welfare of the family and the community.
- provide pastoral care to teenage mothers.
- establish information centres that can provide the community with the “right information at the right time” in a bid to enhance quality of life.
ATS Community Engagement Fellow
Pastor George van der Riet, an alumnus of Auckland Park Theological Seminary, is married to Karin Raubenheimer and they have five children.
He is a senior pastor and has been serving in the full-time ministry for the past 35 years. During this time, he has achieved exceptional pastoral success and has served in various leadership capacities, including that of Regional Sunday School Chairman, Regional Youth Chairman and Regional Executive Leadership Chairman within the AFM Church, the largest Pentecostal and charismatic church in South Africa.
He is a gifted individual, blessed with strong leadership capabilities, and a true visionary, who knows exactly where he is heading. His strategic insight enables him to identify, mould and empower leaders of high standing.
He is a man of integrity, wisdom and tenacity, who tackles even seemingly impossible challenges with grim determination.
Pastor George van der Riet formed part of the inception of the pilot project for ATS's participatory community-development initiative. He is assisting ATS not only at strategically aligning with appropriate corporate partners but also at executing the pilot project and at securing the necessary funding.