Facing the Challenges

“I don’t have a lounge, garden or kitchen anymore. It’s completely taken over by our Free to Grow ministries.” Maggie laughs. She’s not complaining; she’s stating a fact and explaining how she and husband Gerry opened up their home to children in the area to stay during the morning (toddlers) and come to do homework after school (older children).

The Brickles live in Greenfields, Paarl, but children come from the surrounding areas of Groenheuwel, Dalweide and Dal Josaphat. “In our community, we face many challenges and gangsterism is rampant. Drugs and violence are part of our children’s everyday lives and rob them of their innocence. We offer a place where they can be safe and do homework in peace. We just want them off the streets and give them something to eat. Gerry talks to them about life choices, and I show them that we care about them. Everybody is welcome.”

We Shall Overcome

“I’ve lived in Paarl my whole life. My mother battled alcohol addiction, and I decided when I was still very young, that I will do everything in my power not to follow the same destructive path. I’ve seen so many broken homes caused by substance abuse. It always goes hand in hand with so much heartache, conflict and abuse.”

“When I turned 14, I ran away from home and ended up in Johannesburg with some friends. It was only by God’s grace that I returned to my hometown safely and unharmed by age 18. I got married at 19 and had three children. When they were still very young, my husband passed away. He was in the military. Friends suggested that I start volunteering as trauma councillor at the South African Police Services. That’s how I eventually met my current husband, Gerry. I still work with the SAPS on a voluntary basis, and over the years, I’ve attended some training courses to equip me, and that’s also part of why I feel I have a lot to give back to the community.”

“I know the signs of drug abuse, and I feel I can help parents identify the problems and also equip them to take action to help their children. It’s a very vicious cycle, the one of gangsterism, drugs and prostitution. It ruins young lives, and it’s extremely difficult to break the cycle. I feel that I have a calling, together with my husband, to help break this cycle in the community we live.”

At the End of the Day

“It’s not always easy doing what we do, and there’s a lot of pressure on us both individually and even on our marriage. Some gang members resent Gerry for the fact that he is actively campaigning against gangsterism because he also used to belong to one of the most notorious gangs when he was in prison and before he gave his life to the Lord,” Maggie explains. “But we stay dedicated and believe that God empowers us to do the work we do among the youth in our community.”