Working together, building effective and meaningful relationships in a country of Pandemics.

“Never judge a person by their trauma, rather embrace it with them, as it may be the guiding light that transforms them.”

I started working with ATU, back in 2018 as a Volunteer Community Counsellor and Life Coach. I stepped away from corporate life after 16 years to work as an independent consultant for an Employee Wellness/Assistance Service provider, and when my husband was retrenched through Covid-19, helped him start up his business in Occupational Health and Safety.

I conducted training in topics ranging from Gender Based Violence, to building relationships and essential life skills within corporates. As a volunteer first responder in another province working closely with our South African Police Service, I felt I could be of assistance to the ATU using my skillset to help improve the lives of the many woman who turned to the ATU for help. As my relationship grew with the ATU, it became apparent that some of my other work experience, such as business development, training and facilitation, could be used to better assist with more than providing volunteer coaching and counselling to the community.

Whilst working with the team at ATU, I realised that with all the efforts they put into helping those who needed them; time, tight budget constraints, efficiency and relationship with other community support initiatives, appeared to be disconnected. Co-ordination of efforts appeared to be hampered and with bringing in volunteers and interns, a more strategic, a more focussed and well organised system was needed to keep everything working effectively. Do not get me wrong, this team was putting every ounce of their energy into making a difference; however, all the purposeful energy did not have the correct structure for it to be efficient.

The head of the ATU, Loraine was the first person to acknowledge this and point this out and had the initiative to utilise all the skills she had in her volunteer base to make the change she needed for the ATU. Her team needed to reach many more people and be more sustainable if they were to survive. I remember giving a metaphor for what I was observing. When you fly in an airplane, the hostess gives the ‘in the event of an emergency’ talk. Should we lose cabin pressure, oxygen masks will be released from the panel above your head. Reach out, pull the mask to your face and breath.

Well naturally, Loraine and her team would want to put the mask on everyone else’s face first, they are just those people who continually sacrifice so much of there personal time for others. However, the air hostess reminds us that in order to be more effective in helping others, not just those next to you, you need to put the mask on your face first, breath deeply and then you will have all the oxygen available to you to help everyone else, reach even more people.

Loraine got us together and asked the very important questions of how do we do this better? How do we provide a life changing experience for our clients, that not only gives them the vital skills to transform their lives, but also to reach out and mentor others in their communities? How do we make a sustainable difference in the lives of our clients in the most challenging environment, where Femicide, Gender Based Violence and other abuses is a pandemic in itself? How can we make it different, what do we need to change to make all the purposeful energy more effective, to provide a meaningful experience and life changing experience for all those the ATU assist? Most importantly how do we fund it?

To date despite the challenges of Covid-19, the downturn of the economy and especially the high levels of emotional instability within South Africa, Loraine and her team are weathering the storm. A number of significant changes have been made and implemented so far. My role in these changes has been to facilitate and provide guidance where possible.

Going forward I will be working with the team at ATU with the implementation of the volunteer take on process and training, implementing strategic relationships with other stakeholders such as the community crime policing forums, finalising community funding initiatives and platforms. Providing the essential life skills training content for the clients at Turning Point for their sustainable change, provide content for mentorship training so they too can find meaning and purpose in helping others in their communities, equipped with the necessary skills to do so.