Thursday, 29 April 2021

A Tribute to Mike Sunker of the 5 Cees

When you asked Mike Sunker where he would get the money from to fund his latest plans for the Christ Church Christian Care Centre, he would reply: "If I had to wait for the money every time I felt we needed to take the next step, we would never have got anywhere. I pray and some or other how the funding follows."

That's a simple philosophy from a man who was used to getting things done; for a man who dreamt of getting street children off the streets of Hillbrow and Berea and bought an abandoned hotel on Louis Botha Avenue to do this.

                                 Mike Sunker addressing donors and volunteers at the 5 Cees

A lot of the funding came from church groups in the American South where Pastor Mike and his wife, Renu would visit annually before first ill health (he suffered from diabetes) and later Covid-19 prevented it.

For many years the American funding included a fixed quarterly amount in US Dollars that made much of the work of the 5 Cees possible. Even when these funds dried up after the death of the donor, the good work continued.

At the time of his death last weekend, Pastor Mike was already making plans to develop another care centre in Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast on land donated by a church there. He also had a dream of setting up a network of care centres in townships around Gauteng, more specifically Orange Farm.

                     Pastor Mike at a 5 Cees curry evening with myself and Paul Kasango

New Dawn has been involved with the 5 Cees almost since the club started more than 12 years ago and over the years we have helped them with cooking equipment, fridges and freezers, Easter eggs at Easter and blankets for the winter and have sponsored school fees for two learners for the past three years.

Judy Symons has been tutoring these two girls and many of the other kids there over the past few years as a volunteer.

We also regularly attended their AGM at the end of every year (before Covid) and curry evenings at the beginning of the year to thank volunteers and donors and to allow the children to put on a concert.

The good work will hopefully continue and prosper under the guidance of his son, Ajith, himself a pastor, and his wife, Sarah. They take over the running of the Berea care centre with about 70 orphans, vulnerable children and youth and about 30 at the new facility at the Hope Community Centre in Bramley.

Pastor Mike said he decided to broaden the scope of his ministry to the street children when he realised that many of them preferred the life on the streets, but never gave up on them, initiating feeding schemes and other interventions over the years.

The old Berea Hotel on Louis Botha Avenue then became home to a group of children where they had a safe haven, received professional counselling, medical attention and education and could have a fulfilling life growing up.

That's quite an achievement for one man and his dream; and quite a legacy for his successors to build on.

                                             He will be remembered

Pastor Mike (his first name was Arunkumar) Sunker will be buried on Saturday according to his daughter-in-law, Sarah. "The body will be at the Centre at 9am and the service will be held at Hope Community Church Bramley at 10, then go to the Westpark Cemetery from 11.30. You can view the proceedings live on YouTube and Facebook," she says. The link is: Mike Sunker funeral.

                                          Mimi van Deventer

Meeting: At the meeting last week three more new members introduced themselves on Zoom.

First up was Mimi van Deventer, who has been a teacher at Highlands North High for the past nine years. For the past 5 years she has run the Interact club at the school. She said she feels the time is now right for her to become a full Rotary member herself, despite not having any family connections with Rotary.

Mimi said she had become a teacher at the age of 50 after having worked in research, both academically and in marketing. She has a passion for art and although not an artist herself, at one stage she owned a picture framing business.

She is passionate about her school and said she had already arranged with the headmaster to set aside land for planting vegetables.

                                         Wendy Challis

Wendy Challis is a tour guide and says she is passionate about South Africa and everything the country has to offer. As a Rotarian she aims to make fellow Rotarians aware of the possibilities this country has to offer, especially in the tourism industry. She is one of about 10 000 registered tour guides in the country, almost all of whom have been badly affected by the Covid lockdowns.

She sees her membership of Rotary as a way to meet and network with others to help those in need, especially people who have no work because there are almost no foreign tourists in the country at the moment.

Wendy says if she has to describe herself with an adjective starting with the same letter as her name, she would choose wanderlust or wayfarer.

                                          Cuthbert Gumbochuma

Cuthbert Gumbochuma is a previous member of the Rotary Club of Rosebank and was also involved with Interact and Roteract in Zimbabwe. He says he's a Rotarian because he wants to make a difference in the lives of others.

He wants to learn to be responsible and accountable and wants to be an icon in society. His areas of interest include youth and business development.

Cuthbert is a senior compliance analyst and says he enjoys being of service to those who need or can use his help.

Next week: Pending a final board decision (the board meets on Monday night) the meeting next week will be held at the National School of the Arts in Braamfontein, where Seedling Farm 2 is about to be launched. This will be an in person meeting with all Covid regulations observed and will give members a clearer idea of the scope and reach of this exciting new project. Be there!

A Thought for the Week: My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go. - William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

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