Sharing stories of love and life at workshop

Shireen Hudson and Letitia Gordon share a carefree moment at the Valentines Day self-love workshop.

For 26 people who have no home, this past Valentine’s Day was spent in a workshop learning about the importance of self respect and loving themselves.

The Valentine’s Day event was hosted by the Muizenberg Improvement District and was led by social worker Taz Fielies, with MID manager Chevone Petersen in attendance and Johan Lotter, who holds the MID social development portfolio, on hand to speak to the residents.

The event was hosted at the All Saints Church hall in Muizenberg.

The faces of the attendees will be familiar to most Muizenberg residents. Their stories, perhaps not. Some people shared their stories with everyone, some were more reserved, but everyone who attended had the opportunity to speak, and to share, and to have a decent meal and some coffee.

Janine Stynder’s stories struck a chord with many. Ms Stynder was 56 days clean on Valentine’s Day.

Everyone was asked what they appreciated about themselves. She said, for getting clean, she is very proud of her self, and that rather than mourn the years she has lost, she is looking forward to building a life that will be worthy of her children.

“I have lost most of my adulthood. And I stole my mother’s life too, because she took and raised my children. I owe her everything.

“When I was young, I really thought my mother didn’t love me. Now I know I was wrong. She didn’t like my behaviour, but she still loves me. And my children have not gone into the system – my own mother raised them. That is a gift I am very grateful for.

“And now that I am clean of the drugs, now that I am turning my life around, I have hope again. I will be the mother my children deserve, and I will also be the daughter my mother deserves,” she said.

Ms Stynder’s mother was at the meeting, and the group of people were visibly moved by the fact that her mother had flown in from Port Elizabeth to hear Ms Stynder’s speech and support her on the day.

Magdalene Newman said she was proud of herself because, despite her own circumstances, she still cared for other people.

For some, the question was difficult and for many the answers did not come easily.

Ms Fielies spent the morning sharing stories and guiding workshop participants through the process of reflection, and offering practical advice and encouragement.

She said while some of those people present who had no home, had developed addiction problems, not everyone had, and some had ended up in dire circumstances through no direct action of their own.

Mr Lotter spoke to the group about addiction.

One man, who didn’t want to be named, said his dad had taken his life when he was just six. This resulted in his mother becoming an alcoholic, which changed the course of his own life. He is currently going through a divorce, is depressed, and said he arrived at the workshop thinking of throwing in the towel himself, just as his father had done.

“All I want is work and a roof over my head. Then I will be in a position to manage my depression better. I know I need proper meds and somebody to talk to, but my options are just so limited,” he said.

“I get so discouraged when I get turned away from jobs.”

Quentin McLaughlin said he had great ideas and he was good with his hands, being a bricklayer and having inherited his mother’s green thumb and flower arrangement skills.

He also said opportunities for work were very limited.

“I just need somebody to recognise and believe in my ability,” he said.