NEW life is being breathed into a former children's justice centre in Port Elizabeth.
The We Care Project, located at the former Bethelsdorp-based Stepping Stones youth justice centre, caters for the needs of hundreds of residents in Bethelsdorp, Gelvandale and Barcelona in the northern areas.
The project was founded as an NPO in 2008 by pastors Donovan and Ashlene Arends, and has eight other members who make up the executive team and a sub-management committee made up of community members.
"Our five-year goal was to be in our own building serving the under-privileged communities and to also drive our own company car.
"This goal was reached when we approached companies for assistance and Afri-Coast Engineers, in Central, managed by Dup van Renen, made it possible when he invested into this organisation to purchase this beautiful, historic building for R1.5-million. This building used to be a juvenile detention centre and has not been in operation for many years," Ashlene said.
Van Renen said he had worked together with We Care Project for four years before the building was purchased.
"There was a need for a project like We Care. They needed proper facilities to operate from. We identified the building and, having made contact with numerous businesses, none wanted to share in the vision of providing a base centre in support of the project. I then decided I would purchase the building for the project. It came down to supporting the community before this opportunity was lost," Van Renen said.
The main focus of the project is on education and training, health and wellness. Some of the current programmes include a senior citizens' club, daily feeding schemes, daily care of elderly people, and programmes for abused women and children.
On Thursdays there is a support group for women in need of wellness, education, training and motivation, especially those infected and affected by HIV/Aids and TB.
The project feeds about 700 children per week in the northern areas – 150 children and adults (twice a week) in Helenvale; 130 children and adults (once a week) in KwaNoxolo; 130 children (once a week) in Extension 36; and 261 children (twice a week) at Kroneberg Primary School.
Other projects include a back- to-school programme, annual food hamper programmes, computer training, home-based care training, after-school classes, youth outreach and rehabilitation programmes, skills and job creation programmes and HIV/Aids awareness campaigns.
The project launched its services on Friday at the community centre.
"Our aim is to work closely with our clinics surrounding Bethelsdorp, which are Chatty Clinic, West End Clinic and Booysen Park Clinic.
"The wellness centre, which will be run by a registered wellness practitioner and a social worker, will assist the community with various health checks ... It will serve as a medication pick-up point, babies will get immunisation drops and there will be a focus on teenage pregnancy control," Ashlene said.