Today I want to share something so close to my heart that just thinking about it, has me swallowing hard. I have, these past three months, had the soul destroying, and equally soul uplifting privilege of volunteering away my Thursdays, at a shelter for abused women in Heideveld, on the Cape Flats in Cape Town.
Nuraan Osman, Director at Ihata enjoying the sun with shelter residents' children
Ihata Shelter for the Abused Women, run by my incredible lifelong friend, Nuraan Osman, a qualified psychologist and director of the shelter for the past four years, offers sanctuary, protection and hope to so many of the Cape Flats most vulnerable citizens and their children.
In this time, I've seen how women and their children, sometimes accompanied by police, arrive battered and broken at the shelters' gates. Shrunken husks, victims of abject abuse, they don't even wholly realise the full savagery of what they have endured – it was just part and parcel of their daily existence. Hopeless and hapless, they have scant concept of a healthy relationship, and saddest yet, don't believe that they deserve to be in one.
Ihata Shelter Staff
The wonderful Ihata Shelter staff, some of them previous shelter residents and abuse survivors, take the arrivals under their wings and work efficiently to offer them and their children accommodation for up to six months, as well as food, clothing and toiletries, and a sense of security.
Over time the women slowly begin to settle in and participate in the shelter's healing programmes like yoga, garden therapy, laugh therapy and reiki. And empowering programmes which teaches them soft skills such as listening skills and anger management, as well as practical skills which include computer competency skills, knitting, jewellery making, gardening, baking and sewing.
Residents engaged in garden therapy
My contribution, as you may well imagine, is a lot more pie in the sky. You know me, it's pie or nothing! I get to do image consulting with the residents and show them how to dress, how to improve their posture, shake hands when entering an interview room and project their voices and speak to impress - a bit like they do at finishing school! We also do giggly girly things like have make up workshops, beauty treatments, and spa days where we give each other treatments. Those are amazing, and oh my... how good isn't it to see them light up and laugh, forget their troubles and behave like carefree women for a few hours! I love those days best.
Some of the residents in Shelter library
The shelter, tranquil, green and shady is a haven. Most of the time it's wonderful being there and so rewarding to see the residents grow more hopeful and positive about their futures with each passing week. Yet, there is no escaping the moments where I find myself floored, listening as a resident opens up and relates something of her life story. Shocked to the core, it once again hits home that so many women's lives are a harsh, brutal reality.
Those are the days that I leave tearful, my heart heavy. I get home and hug my Harris, and sit tucked up tightly next to my amazing mum, seeking solace in the chocolates she's secreted away but which comes out when she sees my face as I enter. I'm so incredibly blessed. I have little but I have so very much. We're the lucky ones. What luxury to be sitting here reading blogs and sipping lattes, and enjoying the favours we take for granted every single day. Let's not take them for granted any more.
If you'd like to visit Ihata Shelter or volunteer time or funds then please don't hesitate to do so, they're an incredible worthy organisation. See their latest Facebook updates by clicking Ihata Shelter.
On to Happiness!