Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “Sisters Incorporated”

How my loneliest Christmas changed the way I celebrate

Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography via Compfight cc

By Nathalie Koenig

My name, Nathalie, means ‘born at Christmas’ – something which I found to be pretty random, since I was born in March. That changed on 25 December 2008.

I’ve always loved Christmas – the thrills, the frills, the gammon and gravy… the family time, the presents, the carols and the Midnight Mass. And throughout my memory, it had been a happy and celebratory time. But not Christmas 2008. That was a different Christmas.

I had been in a dark and confusing place for months, and couldn’t see any way out. My life had shrunk, and I felt alone, misunderstood and hopeless. And it was Christmas. So all around me was joy and cheer, family occasions that demanded joy and cheer – and… just all this joy! And cheer! Which just made me feel even more pathetic, and alone… and a little Grinch-like.

But then on Christmas night, close to midnight, God spoke to me. He touched me as I grappled in sadness, and filled me with a feeling I couldn’t decipher at first. Then I realized I was filled with consuming fear – I was confused, and wondered what it was that’d suddenly begun to paralysingly terrify me. Then I just knew. I was terrified of my capabilities. My capabilities?! This made absolutely no sense to someone who was convinced that they were, and always would be, a failure. But it was the first time in months that I experienced hope. And this hope multiplied in the days to come, and my life began to turn around. I realised that there was a God who would meet me where I was at, and remind me that He had faith in me. A couple of days later, I remembered the date that this realisation happened, and the meaning of my name. It was no longer random.

While this particular Christmas became an unforgettable season of rebirth for me, it was also the Christmas that helped me begin to understand that Christmas really isn’t the ‘festive season’ for everyone. But evidence of other people’s festivity is EVERYWHERE. I was better able to relate to those people who found this season to be the most difficult, loneliest time of year.

I’m part of a ministry at Sisters Incorporated, a home for abused women and their children, where we have a Bible study with the ladies every Monday. As is common, over the Christmas period, we ‘shut down’ – as people go away, and the holiday season fills up with all things Christmas. And Sisters’ residents, who can’t go to their families, or who do spend time with their families and get reminded of all the things they needed to get away from – can be left feeling the pinch of loneliness, and the absence of those support networks that re-activate in mid-January. Some ladies may relapse into old habits – some even crossing the line to the point of having to leave Sisters Incorporated. It’s a season where a lot of steps forward can be quickly doubled back on, with tragic implications.

So for the past couple of years, we’ve tried to keep some kind of presence at Sisters, and we’ve had ‘prayer-buddy’ systems going… We’ve been real in our sessions leading up to Christmas about how it is a tough time, and tried to share tools that could help ladies cope.

But there’s definitely room for more.

If Jesus was here this Christmas, I have no doubt that He would place himself with the vulnerable. He would give hope to the hopeless, stand in the pain of the lonely, and bring comfort to those who mourn. I’m not sure what it would look like, but I love to dream of what it would look like if His Church would do the same. Because I know that He has faith for His Church to be His hands and feet to those in need at Christmas time – and all year round.

There are many different ways to show the love of Christ this Christmas. There may be people in your family who have been sidelined, and could use some love and encouragement; there are people who will spend the season in hospital, potentially with very few visitors; there are shelters for the homeless, and children to be hosted for the holidays. If your Christmas time is too full and stretched, there are organisations that you can support with donations and encouragement.

So how will you show love this Christmas?

Nathalie is a programme coordinator at Common Good and a member of Common Ground Church‘s Wynberg congregation.

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Show loveLooking for ways you can make a real difference in the lives of those who are vulnerable and in need this Christmas? Download our Christmas Plug-In Sheet here for some ideas, or click here for more on our Christmas campaign.

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Acting Against Domestic Violence

Linda Fugard, the manager of Sister’s Incorporated, a home for abused women, shares with us her response to Anene Booysen’s tragic death, proving that we all can make a difference.

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When I heard the news of Anene Booysen’s brutal death on Sat, 2 February 2013, I was deeply touched and knew that I had to do something. I couldn’t just say, “Oh, another day, another statistic,” and carry on with my life. So I called my staff  together to pray for Anene’s family and to ask God what He wanted us to do.

The Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women called a meeting on Friday, 8th February, to address this issue as civil society. At first I thought that I couldn’t attend as I had so much on my plate. I’d been away from Sisters that week for two days attending our provincial Victim Empowerment Programme summit, where Joy from St. Anne’s and I did a presentation on the Western Cape’s Women’s Shelter Movement. Plus, I was leaving the next week for Johannesburg.

But I woke up that Friday morning and had the distinct feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had to attend that meeting. So I heeded God’s prompting and went.

I am so glad that I did. There were over 50 of us from various NGO’s coming together in solidarity.

A friend came up with one of my many suggestions for the meeting, the power of one. One person can make a difference by standing up and saying “NO MORE”. I also asked, “What can we do for the family today? What can we do for the community within the next week?  And how do we change things in SA? How can we make her death count like Amy Biehl’s death has counted?”

We quickly organised a collection to buy flowers to be taken to the funeral the next day by one representative, as well as food. We then looked at a team doing a specific press release, another team organising the march to parliament, and another looking at the justice system. Very quickly we started to put a plan into place.

When we heard that the municipality wanted to start a shelter in her name we quickly offered to work with them to help them with the process of setting this up.

We are also looking at the resources available in the area and calling in experts in the field where the resources are scarce. At the national summit, we sent a statement of support which was endorsed by the whole summit and read out at the gathering at Parliament.

We have also signed various petitions and The National Shelter Movement of SA (of which I am one of the executives) did a presentation at the summit saying enough is enough. Enough meetings, enough talking, enough promises. We need action NOW.

We have all got to stand as one and fight the fight together until domestic violence and rape is no longer tolerated in our country. We cannot go on being called “the rape capital of the world”. What an indictment on our country.

Let’s pray. Let’s hold vigils. Let’s march. Let’s educate. Let’s be the change we want to see.

– Every Monday night, the women from Sisters Incorporated and a group of volunteers from Common Ground Church meet for a women’s Bible study. Email info@commongood.org.za if you’d like more info on how to get involved.

We Are Not Afraid of God’s Face

Photo Credit: una cierta mirada via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: una cierta mirada via Compfight cc

In the wake of the horrific rape and murder of Anene Booysen, Nathalie Koenig chatted to the women at Sisters Incorporated to hear what they had to say about the abuse of women in this country.

I once asked God to show me His face. It was one of those repeated pleas – “Show me your face Lord. Showmeyourfaceshowmeyourface”. And He showed me the faces of some children I knew. Women I knew. Friends. Family members. Now looking at a snapped ID photo of Anene Booysen, I’m unsettled by the earnestness of her expression. And am asking again for God to show me His face. And I think that He is.

On 2 February, 17-Year old Anene Booysen was gang-raped and mutilated in Bredasdorp.  She died later in hospital, after identifying one of her attackers. (For the full story, click here)

Upon reading or hearing of Anene’s story, many of us may have been shocked or saddened, but how many of us would have responded with the thought “It could have been me”?

This was one woman’s response at Sisters Incorporated. Sisters Incorporated, one of Common Good’s partner organisations, is a shelter in Kenilworth that provides a place of safety and healing to vulnerable women. The residents of Sisters all have stories, as do countless other women in our city, and our nation.

Anene’s story is not one that stands alone.

Read more…

Bags of Love delivered to Sisters Inc!

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You might be wondering what happened when the Bags of Love got delivered? Here’s what one volunteer, Sue Powell, witnessed…

One of the most defining characteristics of a child is their uninhibited expression of emotions.  While this can be a temper tantrum of sheer frustration, I was privileged enough to watch the absolute joy and unrestrained delight on the faces of some little children at Sisters Incorporated.

Sisters Inc is a place of safety for moms and kids who are trying to change their lives and escape from challenging, tempting or dangerous situations.  A small Christmas party was held for these moms and kids, and ‘Bags of Love’ were given to each child.  These bags have been filled by people who have taken the time, money and effort to bless those less fortunate than themselves during the festive season.

As these bags were handed out, I found myself speechless as I watched the blatant pleasure clearly evident on so many faces.  One little boy pulled a ball out of his bag, and just stood there throwing it up in the air and catching it – a huge smile on his face.  Another was on his hands and knees driving his car all over the floor.  I can hardly describe his pleasure as he pulled it back and realized that the car could drive on its own!  Another little girl was having fun ‘dressing up’ as she pulled out a little pink T-shirt, pink slip slops and a sun hat.  All gifts were considered with so much delight and packed in and out of their bags many, many times.  Each child wanted to show off their stash and many of them came to show me what was in their gift bags with infectious delight!

The moms were delighted at their children’s joy.  Many of these ladies have enough of a financial struggle to survive, and seldom get the opportunity to spoil their children.  They were so grateful that someone had made the effort to make sure that their children experienced some of the joy common to so many kids all over the world on Christmas morning.

Sometimes, in the rush of end of term and the chaos of the shops, it seems an effort to go and find another special present for a Bag of Love or Santa’s shoebox.  But next year will be different for me – I’ll be able to picture those little faces and the absolute delight so evident there!  I’ll remember the appreciation of their moms, who knew that they couldn’t provide those gifts themselves and were so grateful that someone else had blessed their child.  And for this year, this scene of delight is also a reminder of the completely undeserved gift that we received many years ago – a gift that we didn’t earn, and couldn’t possibly buy for ourselves, but one that God in His mercy and love provided for us.  I’m sure that my Christmas will be richer this year with this fresh reminder of how the birth of Jesus is our unexpected and undeserved ‘Bag of Love’.

– Sue is part of a team of women from Common Ground Church who conduct a bible study with the ladies at Sisters Inc every week.  As a mom of two little boys, she can relate to the moms at Sisters Inc and understands their desire to do, and to be, the best that they can for their kids.

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