Tucked neatly within the hills of a farming community off of R 44 in Somerset West is the Helder Valley Community Learning Centre. Standing stoically like a proud and seasoned soldier, the rugged main building embodies the space of joy and safety that this center has been to generations of children. The sound of Afrikaans melds with snatches of dialects from Zimbabwe and the screams of delighted children. Soccer balls are the hottest commodities, and there’s a feeling of joy in the air synonymous with the freedom that comes at the end of a school day.
Helder Valley Community Centre serves many purposes, and has for years. The children that are served by this centre are from families that have lived in the surrounding farming community for generations, and they range from grade R up to high school. Homework tutoring in reading and math is provided, but the most powerful impact of the centre is the space that it creates for the kids in the community to spend time with their friends in a place that allows them to be what they are--kids. For them, the community center is a place to come after school that is safe, fun, and engaging. This is no small blessing. With drugs, alcoholism, and abuse being stark realities in their lives, the environment that the centre fosters in the community cannot be overstated.
The centre also acts as a place for the kids to be poured into and challenged. The Rouse family who serve as missionaries with East Mountain come to the center several times a week to build relationships with the kids and love on them. This could include anything from helping with after-school tutoring to playing rounds of soccer to baking muffins for someone’s birthday. Their time at the center embodies much of what East Mountain desires to focus on in regard to building relationships and discipleship. They work in partnership with Louise, a woman from the community who was herself impacted by the centre growing up. She is an integral part of everything that happens there, and her passion to serve the kids is evident not only in the commitment she has to pour out, but also in the respect that the kids show her in return. The work that both she and the Rouse family do embodies a very natural and organic kind of ministry that is conducive to building trust and strengthening relationships. This allows for tough questions to be asked, and truth and encouragement to be shared.
Lastly, occasional workshops are offered at the centre. East Mountain resident Marlyn teaches a couple of dance classes each week for different age groups. The younger kids delight in the way that she combines dancing with games, singing, and yelling. The joy radiating from that class is contagious. With the class for the older kids however, Marlyn shifts her focus to lessons underlying the dance moves she teaches. As she instructs dance, she also focuses intensely on leadership by asking her older students to help her lead the younger students, and expecting them to give her 100% effort. Amidst the kindness and fun Maryln brings to her class, she also expects the best from her students, and they respect her for it. She does an incredible job choreographing dances, but she also develops character and inspires young leaders. She believes in them, challenges them, and loves them.
The relationships and natural opportunities for discipleship that both Marlyn and the Rouse family are able to engage in at Helder Valley are tangibly affecting the young people that come to the centre every week. In the many small things of life such as a hug on a bad day, an answer to a tough question about home, or a friend to play soccer with, the power of investing in others with empowering love is creating change and impacting the Helder Valley community.