Nova has originated from the work of the church in low-income communities and is still working closely with the church.
The church is important for Nova for several resons, including our own convictions that motivate us to work with the church.
In Africa, religion plays an important role in culture and behaviour, and in the everyday decisions that people take, including decisions about the use of technology. Nova is in a good position to understand this interface between faith and culture on the one hand and tecnology on the other hand, and the role of traditional religions in the process of searching for ways to improve the quality of life of households.
The Christian faith brings with it many values that are important for a good quality of life: love, hope, justice, honesty, personal responsibility, the value of work, self-control, service, perseverance, etc.
Tony Blair, then Prime Minister of England, commissioned a report on Africa (March 2005I33) that states that politics had lost the ability to mobilise people in Africa to improve their lives, and that this role had been taken over by the religions, esp. Christianity and Islam. The churches play this role because their work includes promoting the common good and establishing sound values. In South Africa, the churches are among the most trusted entities.
The church has a very good network, with theological studies at universities, central organisation in synods, and the presence of congregations in almost all local communities so that it can engage directly with households.
Nova can be of value for the church also.
In post-apartheid South Africa many churches has seen their role as getting involved with issues in their local communities. However, these issues are complex and huge, and churches need resources – skills, knowledge, funds and partners to get involved meaningfully and effectively. Nova could help to develop such resources.
An example of the way in which Nova can help the church , by helping it to make its diaconal services more professional and effective.
Our Chics programme aims to empower the church to take robust and concrete action beyond preaching only, by helping to ensure that children’s human rights are being fulfilled on ground level, in their households where they are based, as can be seen in the case of rev Sipho Mokoena and the congregation of Kgautshwane. He told us the following:
“Kgautshwane is a deep rural area. It is a dry area, work is very scarce and most people are very poor. It is my first congregation, and I hope it will be my last. People here need hope, and where else will they get it if the church is not there for them?
“We have a day care centre nearby that is not part of the ministry of the church. When they close at lunch-time the children come to the church, where we also provide a program for them. We call this ministry Amogelang – let us meet each other. We present the Chics curriculum in Amogelang once a week.
“Chics is an empowering tool for my congregation. When I came here, I did not know the dynamics of the community. As time went on I became aware of the huge needs of the people but I did not know how to address it. This congregation has many posts, some more than an hour away on bad roads, and on Sundays I have to visit them so that I do not see church members regularly. We have the Sunday School but you find a child of 9, 10, 11 years old walking around in the street during the week, in school time. You have to ask why, the child has parents but some are ignorant. Ignorance is not intentional, it is part of their life, with hopelessness.
“So we started Amogelang. Chics came in with Amogelang. It helped us to talk to the parents, about needs. There are short term needs such as food and clothes, but there are long term needs such as education. Through Chics we network with parents, we can talk about needs in concrete ways. Chics helped us with that, we could not do it without Chics. Parents dump their children at the Sunday School, they feel it is not their responsibility, but Chics helped us to involve the parents again.
“Even the Chics volunteers have developed a lot by being involved. Even myself, I was not aware of the concrete needs as set out by Chics. You can preach a very good sermon, but people have needs, concrete needs, and how do you address that? That is a challenge, and Chics gives an answer to that question.
“Our church was once accused of trying to kill other churches, by being better than they through these programmes. That gave me an opportunity to talk to them. Even the schools felt we are a threat to them, and the social workers and the nurses were surprised that we attend to the needs of the children, and we were not well received. I used the opportunity to talk to them, and they now see that we can help them and work together. If you go to the social worker in her office, she cannot breathe, there are too many stacks of files, but they can see now that we can help them. We are also working with others, like HIV – the testing is now done here. You will be surprised to see how Chics has been incorporated in the day care centres. The church is not selfishly campaigning for itself, it can help to serve the community.
“Chics is independent of the church, for now, but we support each other, we have the same programmes and the same aims. It works well, for example: at the parents meeting that we have just attended, there were two church council members among the parents – so they find that what they hear in the church is the same that they hear outside. In this way we can bridge the gap between the sermon in the church and the work we do during the week.”