Committed to providing not just for our children but uplifting the marginalized and forgotten of society as well, Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) has involved itself in numerous outreach programs. In Jamaica alone, MSC employs over 350 local workers. Across all countries, there are over 460 local employees of MSC. Our hope is to inspire and teach the local people to look after their least fortunate through directly involving and benefiting the community. Additional outreach programs described below aim to alleviate poverty through sustainable training methods and to help develop cohesion between MSC homes and the communities where we serve.
In an effort to support local disadvantaged individuals of all ages and assist them in becoming self-sufficient, MSC Zimbabwe has established a training center called Potter’s House. The program teaches skills such as chicken rearing, vegetable gardening, candle making, baking and other basic employment training where possible. Potter’s House also offers music, art and drama programs.
The resource center is part of our Christ in the Garbage Ministries (CIGM) program in Nicaragua. In addition to providing food packages, CIGM is focused on helping single mothers learn marketable skills to offer hope for the future. CIGM Nicaragua runs a Resource Center (Centro de Recursos) near the dump to offer women a viable way to provide for their families. We offer pastry-making classes, English language lessons and daycare for children while their mothers are in class. Solving the entrenched issues of economic strife and lack of access to services in La Chureca will require years of assistance and development work. With the existence of CIGM, though, women have an option to learn a skill that gives them the ability to generate an income, and most importantly, gives them hope.
At Mahoe Drive in Kingston, there is a Pottery Studio on site at MSC Headquarters. The pottery studio is managed by an MSC employee and serves several functions within our organization. Primarily, the impressive array of crafts serve as income generation for MSC to help offset our operatining costs. This includes commission work from large corporations in Jamaica, helping to fund and spread the word about our work. Patrick, the MSC potter, also takes on local apprentices in his studio to encourage art and enterprise in the local community.
Christmas Treat is an annual event in Jamaica when MSC provides a hot meal and a gift to over 2,000 people in the poorest neighborhoods throughout Kingston. These families would otherwise likely go without a meal on Christmas. On Christmas day 2012, Mustard Seed staff and volunteers fed 5,000 people in the inner city of Kingston. While Mustard Seed is known for caring for children with HIV/AIDS and disabilities, our work to support the neighborhoods in and around our apostolates is crucial to our overall mission of caring for the most vulnerable.
ROOTS FM is a community radio station owned and operated by MSC. The purpose is to assist in inner-city development by focusing on the unique challenges faced by community residents. All of the programming aims to empower, uplift and enrich the lives of our listeners by promoting knowledge, dialogue and entertainment that speak to their common realities and aspirations. ROOTS is dedicated to providing an effective, sustainable mass medium to serve poor, marginalized residents of communities. ROOTS believes that the best sources of solutions are those who face the problems. ROOTS will create and maintain a strong, committed and informed team of professionals dedicated to fostering unity and peace within healthy and caring communities.
The mission of Zinc Link is to bring the power of the Internet to the inner-city communities of Kingston through a series of low cost Internet cafes. In 2001, Mustard Seed Communities opened the first Internet Cafe and, following that success, it was decided that an Internet café should be opened at each MSC location to serve staff, residents and local community members. Each Zinc Link is operated as a small business and is staffed by local residents who are trained on the job. Charges to customers are kept as low as possible and any surplus income is used to finance MSC's general care programs. The vast majority of children have never used a computer before coming to Zinc Link.
Almost 400 Golden Agers benefit from the services of this outreach program. 60 members of this program are totally housebound. Volunteers make five daily visits each week. Those in need are provided with weekly food baskets. Those that have homes receive cleaning assistance from the outreach worker if necessary. Medical fees, optician fees and prescriptions are paid for by MSC. In extreme cases, clothing may also be handed out. Equipment to improve mobility such as crutches and 'walkers' may also be provided. Other services might include assistance in getting building materials such as a few sheets of zinc and some lumber to erect a basic dwelling. Beds and mattresses may also be provided, depending on MSC's inventory. A savings program has also been initiated called the "Small Savings for Golden Agers."