Growing up in tough conditions, inevitably produces tough people who by default, inherit their behaviours from their primary caregivers. Desperation and fear is a way of life for the people of Delft, but in the midst of this conflicted community stands a beacon of light – the Welwitshia Primary School, headed by a man who seeks opportunity out of adversity. Within his school, 3 mothers tell how they got to hear about the Salesian Life Choices Family Affairs program, and how attending the programme transformed their lives, their marriages, their homes and their community.
“I heard about Family Affairs at another school where Salesian Life Choices were doing a presentation. Excited about what I had heard, I approached the principle of Welwitshia Primary which resulted in Life Choices being invited to do a presentation at a parent meeting. Sixty parents indicated a keen interest to participate in the Family Affairs programme and short after 30 parents began. We attended all the 7 parental skills sessions, culminating in the last session being a ‘pay it forward’ fund raiser,” said Nicole.
Family Affairs works with parents as a way of creating a safe society where women and children can develop. The programme provides parental skills training and one-on-one sessions with a therapist and a job search counsellor to groups of parents/guardians in previously disadvantaged communities.
“I can’t even begin to describe how Family Affairs has changed my life and the life of my family. I was able to fully express my pain and talk about my past abuses. I was able to be totally transparent and vulnerable, realising my mommy’s bitterness and pain would have become my way of being, which I would have passed onto my girls – adding to an inheritance of broken women in the community.”
“I was able to identify where I was broken and how that was playing out in my own family. I’ve learnt to pause instead of blowing up. I feel empowered as a mom and stepmom now. The Love languages session has been incredible powerful for my marriage. It’s changed how we talk to each other. Having developed new life skills to deal with my pain and brokenness has meant I no longer need to take medication and that I have choices. Each day I focus on 3 things to be grateful for – it’s completely shifted the way I live my life.”
Valencia interjects excitedly about the changes she has experienced: “Before I attended Family Affairs, life was tough, monotonous! I have three children and was always stressed, as my husband travels for work and I had to cope alone. I’ve learnt to control myself, my emotions and my stress. The counselling Life Choices offered helped me immensely – I learnt the importance of taking care of myself first, I’ve realised I have a place in the world too. I’ve learnt how to share with my husband. Family Affairs has helped me accept my marriage. I learnt to meditate which helped me as a mom to give my children space during challenging times. I’m now using what I learnt to counsel friends so I’m paying it forward. My 10 year old is so proud of me, she is loving what I have become. Due to Family Affairs I went to train as a tutor in an organisation called Word Works in Wynberg and now I am also tutoring children 3x week at the school and giving back to our community. I have become purposeful and have learnt that no matter what I am facing, I can handle it – I have learnt to love and accept myself. Using journaling every evening has been very grounding for me,” said Valencia.
Sonia (im)patiently waited to share her excitement about the impact Family Affairs has had on her life. “Before Family Affairs my life was all about my husband and we were well on our way to getting a divorce. Because of Family Affairs I found myself. Through this, I could work out what our children needed. I got counselling which shifted me and saved my marriage. My husband has since stopped drinking and has converted. The job search counselling helped me to find a job which turned my life around. Everything I learnt in therapy I shared with my husband and we could see how our (community) history has impacted us. The Love Language session was pivotal for us – we got to see what our style is and how to best be with each other. We learnt to understand where our children are at and their different development stages. Learning about what children need has shifted our home. I have even impacted my Mom’s life with my learnings and insights, helping her to let go of her bitterness.”
When the first group of parents completed the Family Affairs programme, parents wanted to give back to the school as part of their ‘pay it forward’ commitment. They chose to do a fund raiser for the school choir to enable them to travel to the regional competition. The Principal loved the idea and united the teachers and parents to work together which resulted in greater benefit to parents, teachers and learners – alignment through education.
“The school is big, with a mixed culture. Planning the fund raiser caused lots of arguing – decisions couldn’t be made. Someone suggested a mother’s modelling fundraiser, someone suggested drama and even singing, so in the end we combined all three, formed a choir and had the mothers modelling. The hall was full to capacity. The children were “wow” and so proud of the mothers. It feels like pride has been reintroduced at our school,” commented Valencia.
The fundraiser was an enormous success, raising R5000. It was huge fun for the kids to see their mothers modelling. All proceeds from the event were handed to the school for choir transport to the District Music Competition at Fisanetekraal. The schools mood was buoyant and excited after the school fundraising event and children bought home three 1st prizes from the competition which led them to further participate in the provincial competition.
The school Principal, Mr. Batandwa Sonamzi reflects: “Children are a reflection of what is happening at home. The difference I see it has made is that parents have become more involved in the school, which has had a positive impact to the children academically, directly improving the school. The children whose parents attended Life Choices have visibly changed their behaviour and improved academically, due to their parents now showing a keen interest in the education of their children. It is well documented how commitment from parents teaches children about commitment to their own lives.”
Well done to Family Affairs’ first Welwitschia parents group and to the school, together we can build strong communities.