The journey towards adulthood and independence is an inevitable period in a young person’s life and one that every parent hopes won’t come too soon. For the young person, the excitement of having the freedom to do what they like without asking for permission is like anticipating heaven on earth. For a parent, having the experience of life’s responsibilities and knowing the discipline that is required to be a successful adult makes them wonder if their children are ready yet. Bethesda’s Vision is working with churches and its members in meeting the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children that they may become disciples of Christ. We are endeavouring to raise fully functioning followers of Christ. The South African government also, through the Children’s Act, requires that every child who is in alternative care must have Individual Development Plans (IDP) that help to identify strengths, weaknesses, and abilities as well as set goals to prepare them for different areas of adult life.
The Bethesda social worker, together with the childcare team, are currently working with Waterkloof Baptist Church and others to bring together the necessary resources to help these young people to transition successfully into adult life. They work with the youth from as early as grade 9 as they look at their desired careers, required school subjects, and their gifts and academic abilities to make sure that their aspirations are practical and realistic. The children’s progress is monitored so that they can be supported and guided in reaching those goals. This even continues beyond the immediate boundaries of Bethesda’s care and into their community life as adults.
Most of our children did not have a proper foundation in education because of the difficult circumstances they came from. Bethesda’s primary school, Jabulane Christian Academy, has been instrumental in assisting those who were behind academically to catch up and create a strong foundation for middle school and secondary education. Some have even gone on to complete their tertiary education. Our prayer is to see our young people educated not only academically but also in matters of life and eternity.
Our children are regularly sent to different career exibitions so that they can be exposed to different careers. Investec Bank also has a programme where some of our grade 11 learners were given an opportunity to observe their workplace enviroment. During these career exhibitions, they learn about the steps that need to be taken to achieve their employment goals. The also learn about the training and education needed for their desired jobs and the importance of employer and employee relationships.
Young people need to integrate well into their immediate community and society when they leave Bethesda. The transition programmme serves to prepare young adults through the participative process that includes all stake holders: the social worker’s initial admission of a child into Bethesda; the parents caring for them; parents, teachers and staff preparing them to leave; church leaders discipling them, and the children themselves taking responsibility to learn. Even after they have left the full-time care of Bethesda, there are deliberate attempts to help our youth to succeed in life. This is done by encouraging them to keep and/or develop friends who share the same values with them, to keep the network of other youth who have left Bethesda’s care, to find a spiritually mature mentor or mentors to serve as a model and guide in areas such as life skills, employment, social support and spiritual maturity.
Bethesda is not only raising children, but we are intentionally working to develop followers of Christ. One of our prayers is that our young people will grow to make intelligent and informed decisions about their lives as adults. We want them to play an active and positive role in society. We also pray that they will be mature enough to discern a biblically a sound church in their community where they will serve and be served for God’s glory. Based on Proverbs 22:6, we teach them the way that they should go while they are in their youth and pray that they will not forget it in their adulthood.
In October 2016, alumni of Bethesda came together in a reunion. It was a diverse group of young adults who had once lived at Bethesda. They admitted that leaving their families at Bethesda was not easy, but spoke highly of the foundation and values they received while growing up at Bethesda. Althought some said that life was difficult, there was a mutual appreciation among them about what God did for them through Bethesda. From these reunion discussions, it became clear that leaving formal care should never be a complete detachment from the relationships that had been formed over the years. Sometimes, the people at Bethesda are the only family that these young people have. They wanted a continued relationship with their former mentors and families; to maintain the network of peers who grew up with them at Bethesda, and to be provided with employment opportunities, scholarships, and career training as opportunities arose. It was obvious that the relationships formed during their care here at Bethesda will always go beyond their time of staying here, hopefully even ‘till eternity.
Everybody understands how important it is to have a plan when you leave home, but every year we hear of young people who left home and were confronted by the huge culture shock out in the world. While we understand that we will not always be successful, we deem it necessary to deliberately try to prepare our young people before they leave. We can help them to know exactly the kind of assistance that will be available for them after they leave, and help them to keep contact with an existing network of mentors. We will work to prepare them as if everything depends on our plan, and likewise trust God for the outcome.