I've been on five bed building trips with Sweet Sleep in four (or five depending on who you ask) different countries. Every experience has been unique, with different cultures and different specific situations. That said, there have also always been common threads that hold true across cultural and political barriers. In Cape Town, both of these characteristics hold true. The setup here differs significantly from the work I've previously done with Sweet Sleep since it is focused on individual homes rather than larger scale orphanages or organizations; but the characteristics of the people we are working with, and what they are looking for, remains.
When I was here in the summer with Jen, we met several of the church and community leaders working in the neighborhoods and townships with the greatest needs with regard to providing for vulnerable children. It was encouraging to see how many people were working to serve those in need, but also a bit overwhelming to see the extent of that need. We were fortunate (blessed and directed) to eventually meet with staff from Open Door, an organization working out of the Ocean View community (while the name technically provides a true description of the community, it doesn't adequately reflect its state -- while it's certainly not the most impoverished area, there are significant drug and other problems that result in many kids living in bad home situations or away from their parents). We were able to work with the Open Door staff to set up the seeds of a parenting program to be tied to the delivery of beds to some of the neediest in this community, though.
Coming back to Cape Town, we'd heard that the classes went well and that the soon to be bed owners were very excited. And while the specific situations of the people receiving the beds varied, all would be providing a better, safer place for vulnerable children. While we knew this coming in, what I didn't expect was the profound change the classes and beds would have on the caregivers.
Though we still have a few to meet, the caregivers we have met thus far have been unanimous in their praise for the value the classes added and the amount of help they've already provided in raising the children in their care. In addition, the staff of Open Door have shown great enthusiasm about the success of the classes and how productive they were -- and how they fostered support groups among the caregivers that have continued beyond the timeframe of the classes.
Sweet Sleep has traditionally worked through orphanages to provide directly to the children housed in them, and in doing so worked toward its mission of providing a bed for every head. What we are beginning to see in Cape Town is the opportunity for that work to not only impact the child but the caregivers as well, and subsequently the culture around the children. This additional level of influence offers a great opportunity to impact the overall culture of the area, and exponentially expand the reach of Sweet Sleep in these neighborhoods. With the great local partners, there's an opportunity to eventually make an impact that's multi-generational. Most importantly, it allows the same type of impact opportunity for witnessing to the people of these areas and encouraging those who are already our brothers and sisters in Christ.
God has set up many threads to form a beautifully emerging pattern in Cape Town. I'm very excited to see what the future holds, but just as much by what we are already seeing.