The Meritorious Service Award is the highest commendation that Rotary can bestow on any local organisation.
This distinction has just been presented to Reverend John Thomas and his wife, Avril Thomas, of Living Hope, in recognition of the organisation’s 20 years of community service covering the far south communities of Fish Hoek, Capri, Masiphumelele, Ocean View, Red Hill, Overcome Heights, Muizenberg, Capricorn and Mzamomhle.
Koos Burger, president of the Rotary Club of Cape of Good Hope, said it was worth noting that both his Rotary club and Living Hope shared the word “hope” in their names.
“We are very proud to recognise and to commemorate 20 years of distinguished community care, assistance and leadership,“ he said, presenting Living Hope’s staff, volunteers and leaders a certificate granting the organisation honorary membership of his Rotary club.
The certificate and a R20 000 donation were handed to the Thomases at Living Hope’s Capri care centre, in accordance with Covid-19 regulations.
Mr Burger said Living Hope’s work exemplified the ethos of Rotary.
“Living Hope’s work covers all our seven areas of focus, which are Rotary’s guiding principles: these include peace and conflict resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, economic and community development, and support of the environment,” he said.
Reverend Thomas has previously received Rotary’s Service above Self award and its Paul Harris Fellow award.
His non-profit organisation runs various community-development programmes. It plays a vital role in the prevention, care and treatment of people infected and affected by HIV/Aids and other chronic illnesses and is involved in disaster relief.
Last year, Living Hope’s Covid-19 disaster relief reached thousands of people. They screened and gave test results to over 23 000 people, cared for those who tested Covid-19 positive, delivered over 3 000 chronic medication packs to clients in their homes each month, and distributed R7.5 million worth of food parcels or vouchers to Masiphumelele.
They also delivered nutritional paste in all the areas they serve to children aged 6 and under and taught 130 men and women to use the Wonderbag slow cooker to help feed the sick and hungry. The organisation provides training in health-care, substance-abuse recovery, life skills, agriculture and business.
When fire ravaged Masiphumelele shortly before Christmas, Living Hope put out an appeal for donations to help the fire victims that, according to Reverend Thomas, was so successful the organisation ran out of space to store everything.
“It became very clear that the response was far greater than we could physically cope with in our current buildings. To date, we have had six shipping containers fully loaded on our site. This also proved to be too little space, so we then rented two empty shops across the road from us around, each 160m². They are literally stacked from floor to ceiling with goods.“
It had been heartening to see the enormous response and spirit of volunteerism from people, he said, adding that, apart from food, Living Hope had been swamped with toys, bed linen, mattresses and blankets .
“The scouting movement of Cape Town was amazing, as was the Emergency Volunteer Services of Ocean View. People continued to volunteer all the way through into the new year up until about January 5,” he said.
“We are humbled and grateful to God for His provision and care enabled through donors,” he said.
Reverend Thomas said Living Hope had held daily meetings with the leaders in the burned areas as well as with City officials and politicians from different spheres of government.
“We hosted the national Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu as well as the national Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu. These ministers made Living Hope their base while in Cape Town and operated their press conferences and meetings from Living Hope premises,” he said.
Ms Sisulu, he added, had sent a film crew to Living Hope. “She said that our response has unequivocally been the best she has seen in her experience in South Africa and asked if we could go national in disaster response.“