Sam and Anna Danforth work in South Africa using business and skill development in disadvantaged communities. We co-founded Titus Auto Centre, an auto repair shop that exists to technically train and spiritually equip aspiring mechanics in South Africa. We live on a farm where we are also involved with an agricultural ministry called Back 2 Eden. Our kids, Elaina and Sawyer, have loved life on the farm and are finishing high school.
In 2014, our family moved to South Africa with a background in aviation maintenance and education. We have seen many mission models but believe that the ones that lead to greatest transformation are those that build upon the existing strengths and to unleash the potential of the local community. For our first year, we worked with local leadership to assess the needs of the community that would lead to long-term transformation in an area that suffers 50% unemployment rates and few post-secondary school education options. In 2016, we combined our experience in maintenance and education to propose a business plan of an auto repair shop that would dually act as a training facility for aspiring mechanics. It was enthusiastically approved and the Lord quickly provided the capital for start-up costs to build and equip an auto shop. Our shop was simple but exactly what we needed. We were inspired by the scripture in Titus 2 where the older generation is called upon by the Lord to invest in the younger generation and named the shop Titus Auto Centre. Our motto is that Titus exists to technically train and spiritually equip aspiring mechanics in South Africa.
Our first intern was a gardener from a small hospital whose supervisor saw that he had great potential. Mthandeni worked with Sam before we even had a shop and learned everything he could about vehicle maintenance. He quickly outgrew his role as an intern and became the shop assistant. Allen joined our team as shop manager and brought 36 years of mechanical experience and a shared vision. The Lord built our team with the increasing demand for quality mechanics and training. Skill development takes place as theoretical and practical disciplines. Titus aims to maintain a 1:2 ratio of qualified mechanic per intern for maximum quality training purposes. Sam leads the team in biblical study every morning to develop the faith of existing believers and expose truth and hope to those who don’t yet know the Lord. In 2019, Titus was registered as a Non-Profit Company in South Africa and is run by a board of directors comprised of Christian businessmen in the U.S. and South Africa. Sam has been working with the government and this year, the shop became MerSETA certified, which means we are recognized by the government as an accredited skills training facility. We also became RMI certified, which means we are held to a high standard of practice by the Retail Motor Industry. We piloted a free 5-week Basic Vehicle Maintenance program for youth in our community and it was well received, but was cut short with South Africa’s COVID lockdown measures.
In 2020, we built a classroom where Sam and Allen conduct theory training when they are not offering practical training on the shop floor. Our aim is to be 100% self-sustaining in the future. As of 2021, the shop is 75% self-sustained through the business side but we do still rely on donor relations. South Africa’s strict and prolonged lockdown response to COVID-19 greatly impacted businesses on the coast and many have shut down. We are grateful that Titus remains in operation.
We are excited about what the Lord has already done to move mountains to build Titus Auto Centre. We look forward to seeing how He will use it to offer dignity through work, education, and discipleship to the people of our community.