The Good Shepherd Center as a model for all
Article by the Good Shepherd Community Learning Center,
Community of South Africa.
Twenty-nine years ago, Sister Colleen Simpson founded the Good Shepherd Community Learning Center in the impoverished Madidi community in South Africa’s North West Province. Since its inception, the center has been providing quality services of education, healthcare, and social welfare with compassionate care to women, children, and youth from the local community and surrounding villages.
As a delivery site for the North West Community College, the center offers post-school students from the ages of 16 up to 85 the opportunity to pursue further learning, improve their skills for employability, progress to other opportunities, and/or develop income-generating projects to establish their own businesses. In addition to the adult education and training academic program, the center runs the following accredited courses: sewing and knitting, beadwork, hairdressing, computer IT, catering and bakery, electronics, welding, plumbing, and administration. There is also an on-site clinic and counseling services for victims of abuse, addicts of drugs and alcohol, and for the large number of teenage girls who become pregnant. To cater to the children from the local communities, the Lesang Catholic Pre-school provides care and early childhood basic education to children from 18 months to 6 years.
Sr. Colleen with the women who attend the accredited beadwork course.
Since the center was established, the people living in Madidi and the surrounding 16 villages in the Bojanala Platinum District municipality have been able to better themselves through education and empowerment and experience tremendous changes in their lives. Many of the former students have gone on to work in banks, including the Reserve Bank of South Africa, government departments, shops, and an endless list of other places. Crucially, many have been able to control or overcome their addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Some of the children benefiting from the pre-school early childhood basic education.
In recent years, the center has been praised for its God-centered approach and excellent programs. In August 2018, the center was privileged to receive a visit from South Africa’s minister of higher education and training, Ms. Naledi Pandor. During her visit, she praised Sr. Collen and the center staff and hailed the center as being one of the best of its kind. The following year, in April 2019, the center was declared a best-practice model of integrated services by the provincial department of social development’s HIV/Aids directorate. During this past year of the pandemic, the center has reached out to donate and distribute food parcels, sanitary towels, clothes, and COVID-19 personal protective gear to the poor of Madidi.
Sr. Colleen Simpson and the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Ms. Naledi Pandor, during her visit in 2018.
Given the demanding work and the large number of groups of people that the center supports, the mission is broad. But Sr. Colleen keeps momentum by reminding the sisters and staff that they have been sent to reveal and communicate to the world of today the merciful love of God. Together, they achieve this by reinforcing the value of the dignity of each person and striving to treat everyone with respect, giving them opportunities for growth and individual expression. Each team member plays an important role to make real the vision of the center which is to have a ‘community in which every person has the opportunity to live life in its fullness’ by seeking to extend mercy to the poor, the oppressed, and awakening in our world the dignity and value of each person in the spirit of Jesus the Good Shepherd.