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WHERE WOMEN RECOVER FROM THE UNSPEAKABLE
When you hear the stories that come out of Beth Shan, a Salvation Army protective home for abused and trafficked women, it’s difficult to believe that this is happening today … that this is what so-called human beings are doing to women, adults and children. Here they come to find temporary shelter away from domestic violence, cruelty,
rape, eviction from their homes, often forced to live in parks, in fear, and some who’ve escaped from the terror and degradation of human trafficking.
Imagine – if you can – being a terrified 7-year-old like Candice Smith* and being raped by your own brother, your parents not believing you – and this continuing for the next nine years, until one day your father catches him in the act!
Now imagine Candice at 21 with a baby of four months, being so badly physically and mentally abused by your mother that your landlord takes you in for safety.
Candice’s life reads like a badly-written novel. At one stage, when living with her father while her mother was in prison for drug-smuggling, he threw her out on the street over a minor disagreement.
When she thought things couldn’t get worse, Candice lost the one person she loved and trusted – her grandmother.
Candice admits that it wasn’t all bad luck, that she too made mistakes. “When I was 18, I made the biggest mistake of my life – I moved in with my mum. Her life was one big party – drinking and drugging and trying to encourage me to join in their ‘fun’. My gran’s death got to me. I was heartbroken. I just couldn’t deal with the immense pain I felt. I started taking drugs, mixed with the wrong crowd and eventually ended up living on the street. This is where I met the father of my daughter.”
The responsibility of a baby has had a profound effect on Candice
After being on the street for four months, a friend of her mother’s rescued her and locked her up for nine days when she fed Candice nothing but sleeping tablets and coffee, in an attempt to wean her off drugs. For the next few months life seemed more optimistic. Candice had also found a job as a call centre agent.
Then, in April 2015 she met her daughter’s father and fell pregnant. When she was six months pregnant her brother, drugged up, attacking Candice so badly it’s a miracle she never lost her baby. Last December she gave birth to a beautiful little girl, Mandy. She was staying with her mother, who’d lost her job and there was no food in the house. Candice recalls the day her mum came home from an all-night binge telling her she’d been out all night ‘robbing people to put food in your fat face’. She remembers her mother’s beating and the kindly landlord taking her in for protection.
It was in May this year, when Candice and Mandy arrived at Beth Shan with nothing but the clothes they wore. With counselling and practical support, Candice now looks forward to a better future. “I’ve been let down so often, I never again want to be in a position where I need to rely on anyone.” says Candice. “Beth Shan has given me hope and is showing me that I do have choices and can have a better life for me and my daughter.”
*Not her real name
Hitting the low life from getting high
Despite 30 years of drug abuse, Anita’s newfound faith is reflected in her air of peace
From age 16, drugs dominated and ruined Anita’s life. She’s now 47. Coming out of a drug rehabilitation centre after nine months she had nowhere to stay. Alone and desperate, she phoned a friend from a garage where she was begging for money, to ask if she could stay the night. Her friend promised to call back. Yeah right she thought, disbelieving. But her friend did call back, saying she’d found a shelter run by The Salvation Army. Within minutes Major Moya Hay from Beth Shan called, telling her to sit tight she was on her way. That was six months ago.
Let’s hear Anita’s story.
“My mum died when I was 13, when I really needed her. She was the last person to say she loved me, which I know she did. I went to live with my sister and brother-in-law, who were heavy drinkers and used me as their barmaid. When discipline and structure were most important, I had none. I rebelled. I left school in Grade 10, aged 16, and got arrested for smoking dagga. I’ve since been in jail several times and have tried everything: cocaine, mandrax, crack, CAT, crystal meth. You name it, I’ve tried it. But to this day I’ve never touched alcohol.
“I’ve lived on the street. I’ve begged, borrowed and stolen. In my experience when you’re down and out no one wants to know you. Even your family won’t help.
“The night before I landed up in rehab, I was probably at my lowest. I stole a gun and money for drugs from a friend and sat in a park virtually the whole night. At about 2:00 a.m. the drugs
were finished and I thought this is it, put the gun at my temple, and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened! I’d forgotten to release the safety catch! I heard a voice, which I knew in my
heart was God. He said “Anita, I’m not done with you yet.” At 4:00 I phoned a friend and told her I was going to die here tonight. She fetched me and helped to get me into the rehab centre.
“Since coming to Beth Shan I’ve learnt that there are people out there who care about you. I’ve learnt that I have a talent for arts and crafts and can earn an income from it. Going to The Salvation Army church I now know that Jesus is in my heart. I have received more love from the Christians at the church in the last six months than I’ve had in years. I’ve learnt to love again. We’re here for each other, sharing and helping each other emotionally and spiritually. We’ve also learnt important lessons like how to cope when we leave here, how to function in society. When I think of Beth Shan, Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind: ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’
“I’m starting computer classes and I’d like to study further. I’m good with figures so perhaps accounting could earn me a reasonable living. My ultimate goal is to share my story with teenagers – possibly at school camps – and help prevent them from making the same mistakes I did.
Since Beth Shan opened its doors we’ve helped many women like Anita and Candice… women for whom drugs and alcohol have become survival crutches, who’ve been isolated or even locked away by their husbands, mercilessly beaten or kidnapped. Here at Beth Shan, they’re encouraged to recognise that they do have the chance of a good future and that, with help and support, they can work towards it, step by step.
“BUT WHY YOU?”
The question stopped Major Jeff Stafford in his tracks. Had he not just explained in detail all the incredible good works in which The Salvation Army is involved day by day, throughout the country, touching the young, the old, the in-betweens, the blacks, the whites, and people of every denomination? What more information did this person need to legitimise a decision to leave a bequest to this most worthy cause?
“I mean,” his interrogator continued, “it’s not as if you’re dedicated to helping little children – for which I’m always a soft touch, or animals – which may be my passion, or any other specific cause. You’re really all over the place, aren’t you?”
For a moment our legacy officer was at a loss for words. He happened to look out the window just in time to see three jets fly over, very low. The noise would have drowned out a quick response, if he’d had one. But he was inspired.
“Neither you nor I, sir, lived through the Second World War, but we do know our history and certainly most of Winston Churchill’s unforgettable speeches. Those jets made me think of the great man’s comment after the Battle of Britain (July 10 to October 31 1940). It turned the war and saved our Christian way of life from the vileness of Nazism. Churchill’s comment was:
Never was so much owed by so many to so few”
The same may be said about The Salvation Army in South Africa: never have so many been helped by so few in just one organisation. And that makes it imminently worthy of bequests!
SETTING THE WORLD ALIGHT
It’s difficult to deny the effect environment has on a child’s life when there have been many successful young people who’ve shared the background of Joseph Baynes Children’s Home in Pietermaritzburg. Currently two 18-year-olds are starting to make their mark in very different fields – Sechaba Mokoena pursuing his dream to be a fire-fighter, and Qini Dlamini proving her worth as a designer.
Sechaba (far right) seems to enjoy the study as much as the training aspects of fire-fighting (above)
Fifteen years ago Sechaba and his older brother, Sam, arrived at Joseph Baynes, a Salvation Army flagship home. Initially quiet and withdrawn, early schooling helped Sechaba find
his voice while sport channelled his energy. Although not a brilliant scholar, he matriculated from Linpark High School with a university entrance.
Shortly after the boys came to the Home, their father dropped out of their lives. Sechaba was already 16 when his maternal family was traced, but it was not easy: he could not speak their
language, he had no bond with his mother and he met siblings he did not know.
After leaving Joseph Baynes, the young man was cared for by a special family until he moved in with Sam.
Several wonderful people have helped him on his way to achieving his dream. Neville Smith who is on the Joseph Baynes advisory board, approached the KZN Rural Metro Emergency Management Services who offered the lad a five-month fire-fighting course – for free! The Salvation Army Education Fund has covered the R28 000 required for accommodation, meals and laundry – and financed his successful bid for a driver’s licence.
A hero’s sponsorship
Neville Smith’s father, now a 90-year-old living in Australia, has sponsored Sechaba’s kit. This remarkable man had been Pietermaritzburg’s deputy fire chief, and founded the South African Fire Protection Association. Most notably, he earned the George Medal for bravery during a rescue operation – the highest non-military award in the British Commonwealth!
Sechaba certainly has big shoes to fill and we have every confidence in him, especially knowing the strong religious faith he found at Joseph Baynes.
BLAZING A DIFFERENT TRAIL
Qini takes her futture seriously
Compared with Sechaba’s fiery future, Qini Dlamini’s decision to study design may seem a little tame – until you see the passion that flames her enthusiasm. Success is unquestioned, given her determination and hard work, with the love and support of her friends in The Salvation Army constantly stoking the fires of ambition.
Orphaned as a baby, Qini also came to the Joseph Baynes Children’s Home aged three – and with an older sibling. An exceptionally clever child, she was accepted by Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School where she excelled in music and learned to play a variety of instruments. Her special qualities were acknowledged when, in matric, she was selected as a peer counsellor.
Qini enjoyed considerable support: Philisiwe Mhlongo, a Joseph Baynes staff member, even took the young girl home for holidays, and once she’d left school.
Her matric results were so good, Qini had many options and chose to pursue her career at the BHC School of Design* in Cape Town.
This talented Zulu lass describes the courses as ‘hectic’, with a workload that keeps her up all hours of the night. She maintains her connection with The Salvation Army, attending the Observatory Corps (church) and is now a drummer in the brass band and a guitarist in the worship team. Our intrepid go-getter also has a weekend job at Truworths, so now attends night services at Christian Revival Church where she’s been made a home cell leader.
To relieve work and study tension, she and two friends – a Dutch boy and another Zulu girl – have started a singing group. Called Oreo after the biscuit, the two girls are the biscuit, the
boy’s the cream!
A great joy has been Qini’s recent reunion with Siphelele with whom she lost touch for some years after the older girl left the Home.
The Salvation Army Education Fund is financing Qini’s course and accommodation at the WYCA in Observatory, within walking distance of the design school. Her weekend job covers food, toiletries and transport.
*Formerly the Boston House College School of Design
Qini adds glamour to her three-piece vocal group
SEEN FROM HERE
TRUMPET BLOWERS NEEDED!
I wonder what kind of outcry an ad with this headline would create when people discovered that The Salvation Army was the advertiser and that we were not looking to boost our brass bands!
It’s a sad fact that the general public undervalues the enormous contribution many fine non-profit organisations make to our society – and so we battle for financial support. Simply, we need to advertise.
I’m constantly being urged to ‘tell them what you do’ but, simply, we don’t have budget to advertise. This is why we need you to help us blow our own trumpet. Tell everyone you know all about what you know of The Salvation Army. Even that funding isn’t the only support we need – that a pair of helping hands, an encouraging word, the occasional shout-out in the media – will all add to the cause.
How far should we go in seeking the limelight?
I am happy to tell our story again and again, for it is not my story, but about those we serve. It is for their sake, their benefit. This Reporter alone is rich in human stories – wretched, wrenching, but with the positive thread of hope and victory through God’s love.
Again I humbly appeal to you, your friends and family to give generously to the work of The Salvation Army. You see, the real story is about God, His work through us – and the work He’s wanting to do in the lives of those we serve.
Now that’s a trumpet worth blowing!
Major Carin Holmes
Public Relations Secretary
Southern Africa Territory