Bridgman Development Center

South Africa

Read the latest update from the Bridgman Centre

The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), founded in 1967, has a strong established partnership with Global Ministries. The UCCSA spans five countries in southern Africa (Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, and Botswana). In South Africa there are 272 UCCSA congregations with 235,900 members. 

One of the South African UCCSA congregations is in Zola Soweto and operates the UCCSA Bridgman Development Centre. The Centre opened its doors in 1975 under the direction of its founder, Reverend Bernard Spong, and was developed to provide tutorial support and leadership development to high school students. These students were some of the most marginalized students in the area from a community riddled with poverty, violence, discrimination, and despair. Despite the challenges from the system of apartheid in those days, there have always been young hopefuls who have participated in the Centre to forge ahead. 

Today, the Bridgman Development Centre continues to work hard and maintains its tradition in the education and the empowerment of young leaders. It has had several very capable young directors, including today’s director, Wellington Mthobisi Sibanda. 

Following are the projects and programs that exist today at the Bridgman Development Centre: 

The Saturday School

Serving between 50 – 80 students each year, the school provides extra lessons and tutoring in math, physical sciences, English, and accounting. The Centre also houses a small computer lab and library for students to study, write papers, and research. 

The After Care Program

The program provides homework assistance, recreation, and arts and crafts activities to approximately 50 youth between the ages of 7 – 13. The children attend the program each week, Monday – Friday, from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. They receive a snack each day and have a culminating event each Christmas for the community. 

Girls Against the Spread of AIDS (GASA)

According to a recent newspaper article, 34 percent of the community’s population is living with HIV and most are not even aware of their status. In addition, the most affected are females between the ages of 15 and 45. The GASA program was introduced in 2003 and has recently expanded to develop an AIDS awareness program to target gender sensitive realities.

GASA includes girls ages 15 through 18 in intensive sessions of HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention Advocacy training. Once completed, the girls share what they have learned with other youth in the community. The project leader’s objective is to train and build capacity among the young women in hopes that they will be able to manage and coordinate the project.  A new group, 

Boys Against the Spread of AIDS (BASA)

A newer program, the BASA program has begun, with purposes very similar to that of GASA.

The Bridgman Development Centre is in an impoverished area of Soweto and has survived over the years through the generous giving of friends, churches and, more importantly, by the grace of God.  With the downturn in the economy in recent years, Bridgman faces the daily challenge of providing services with little funds.  Costs of operating the center run about $3,000 per month.  

The Bridgman Development Centre is a wonderful place of ministry and, despite its many challenges in areas of both human and financial resources. It is making a difference in the lives of many children, youth, and young adults in the Zola community.

Update: November 2013

Bridgman Centre continues to provide relevant and competently-operated empowerment development programs for the churches and grassroots communities within the Central Regional Council of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa – South Africa Synod.

The concept of ‘Leadership Lived’ resonates exceedingly well with their community and with prospective students and their parents. It has greatly increased the visibility of Bridgman in the region and beyond.

The Academic Programs Task Force has worked hard to identify several new academic programs that will help the staff grow both in person and online.  Doing so will enhance the Bridgman Center’s relevance in the Soweto.

 The Director, Mr. Sibanda, looks forward to working with a purpose driven approach for 2014 and beyond.  The future of the Bridgman Centre hopes to move forward:

  • To provide social, educational, and recreational activities in Soweto
  • To offer training in specialized skills for community development and service.
  • To provide resources and competent personnel necessary to social, education, health, and recreational activities
  • To cooperate with sister organizations of a similar nature for the betterment of the programs and wise stewardship of resources.
  • Enhance lives and expand the opportunities of the children, youth, adults, and seniors of the Soweto community
  • To initiate staff and volunteer training and capacity-building in order to meet community needs

Update: June 2014

The Bridgman Centre continues with its ministry to the children and the communities around it amid day- to-day challenges.  A process of reorganization and New Vision for the Centre has been started by the Board.  The New Vision includes a more concerted effort to promote the Centre to the different local churches so that it can be used by more people. The Centre is a gift of God to the church in the Soweto Community, hence the need to promote it for wider use. 

The New Vision of the Centre includes the following aspects:  

  • To be a place for learning by introducing more training and educational programs than are currently available today. This will include UCCSA Leadership Academy programs such as Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).
  • The Centre will become a hive of activity, especially around training for mission and service in the church and in society. The intent is to continue to celebrate the June 16th Celebrations and the Bridgman Development Lecture.
  • To produce a video telling the story of Bridgman that will be showcased at the new Bridgman Memorial Lecture. This video will be a short documentary film celebrating the history and impact of the Bridgman Development Project.

In December 2013, the Centre celebrated Children’s Day and graduations.  The Centre also has been identified as an immunization point by the local health authorities, to provide service to the Centre’s pupils and children from the surrounding communities.

Support this Ministry

To make a gift for this ministry online or by check use the online donation page.

  • 100% of your gift will be directed to Bridgman Development Center
  • You will receive updates on the work in this area as they become available
  • Share in the vision of God’s abundant life for all people

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