The Bridgman Development 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. Recently, a new Director was named for the Centre, Wellington Mthobisi Sibanda. In a January 2013 letter, Director Sibanda shared some of the history of Bridgman Centre.
The Bridgman Centre was established in 1967 with monies that were received after the expropriation of the Bridgman clinic by the apartheid government. It is named after a former American missionary, the Reverend J. F. Bridgman, who had been sent by the United Christian Board for World Mission (UCBWM), predecessor mission body of Global Ministries. 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. The Bridgman Centre over the years has been a site of struggle against apartheid, poverty, HIV/AIDS, neglect of children, loneliness for the elderly, and the poor education system.
The 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. At the present time, several programs are run at the Centre including: an aftercare program for primary school children, a toddlers care program, an exercise and activity program for grannies, Girls Against the Spread of AIDS (GASA), and Boys Against the Spread of AIDS (BASA).
With the downturn in the world economy, Bridgman faces a tremendous daily challenge of providing services with very little funds. Costs of operating the center run about $3,000 per month. If increased funds are not made available, reports Director Sibanda, the Centre may have to close its doors after many years of service.
Global Ministries continues to welcome special gifts designated for the Bridgman Development Centre.