Thursday, 12 April 2012

Retreat with Carers - March 2012

In March 2012 CHATT hosted the Caregivers’ Weekend Retreat at St Raphael’s, Faure. Eighteen women from came from Arisen Women Mitchells Plain and two women from Hout Bay.

This was a weekend planned to spoil and nurture them - to teach new healing techniques to heal themselves and their clients; to reflect with them on the impact they have on their clients and their clients on them; to embrace the wonderful work they do under difficult circumstances.

We welcomed tired, frustrated and hungry care workers on a hot Friday afternoon at 16.00. While they settled in their rooms, Shireen and l reassessed and changed the programme. The evening session was spent getting to know each other. Each group had to introduce a fellow care giver after they had shared with each other. We also discussed the purpose of the retreat. After this came a Chinese healing exercise led by Monanana.

Very early Saturday morning we were woken by the sounds of owls, birds and the rustling of leaves. After a huge breakfast we started our day with a story. Psalm 139 was read with the emphasis on the uniqueness of each individual. This was followed by hand massage, reflection and then tea.

An impromptu blood pressure session, general health education and counseling followed, managed by Sis Freda. After that a huge lunch.

Ruth Bruintjies arrived with a portable labyrinth which was set up in the conference room. She introduced us to various forms of feet meditation and led each one of us through it. What an experience! A few participants needed counseling afterwards from Sis Freda, Monanana and myself. Ruth also supplied us with handheld labyrinths to take with us.

Felicity Harker's  Tai Chi was a good healing technique both physically and emotionally after a tea break. Another short break followed, then dinner, then the evening session started. There were squeals of laughter, music and sharing while we tried to make felt hearts either for ourselves or a loved one. Monanana is hopeless with a needle and thread and terrorised Shireen into helping her. Except for two participants we all enjoyed making our memento’s. Bed-time was very late.

On Sunday morning we woke up to the sound of birds, so quiet and peaceful. We packed up and had a hearty breakfast. Liz joined us for the session of  prayers and readings from the Bible led by Sis Freda and Shireen while we all joined in the singing.

Later we did another Capacitar healing exercise. We reflected on the weekend - the most valuable outcome being that people got to know each other.

Farzaneh and Sis Freda's granddaughters joined us for lunch and we left soon afterwards.

Throughout the weekend Shireen saw to the running of the programme and was the 'thermometer' for us to gauge the caregivers’ feelings and some mishaps. Monanana has a wealth of knowledge about community and health organisations from Cape to Cairo, and she shared it with all of us. Sis Freda was there with her quiet and solid support.

Thank you, Farzaneh, for transport and support and, Liz, for being on the other end of the phone.

Pearl Molteno

World AIDS Day - Dec 2011

The “fight of the people” was brought to our attention at the annual St George’s Cathedral World AIDS Day service. With the slogan “Be there!” the service placed emphasis on the communal effort needed throughout society to get HIV related numbers down to zero. With the purpose of raising awareness, messages of knowledge, positive influence and proactive living were conveyed to audience members.

The programme combined doses of laughter, dramatics and joyous musical items.  An educational community theatre piece by the Africa Centre for HIV/ AIDS Management of Stellenbosch University entitled “Lucky the hero” warmed audience members up to dealing with the topical content surrounding HIV awareness. After the play a human chain was formed in solidarity outside the St George’s Cathedral with a collection of school children, passing tourists and those attending the service. Choirs from St Paul’s and St Mary Magdalene added musical offerings to the service.

These elements, however, came together with the direct and inspiring words brought forward by youth ambassador and speaker from the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Fezeka Nomwehle.

Aged 20, Nomwehle emphasised the necessity of developing the “African dream” among the present and emerging youth as a way of encouraging conversation about the topics of sex, rape and relationships, which in turn would lead to conversation pertaining HIV. A particular focus for the youth speaker was blurred identities. The social circumstances into which they are born affect the prospects and perspectives of the youth. Some young people, particularly those from poorer communities, have a flawed perspective (on HIV). An empowered mind and open relationship relation between families on taboo subjects was Nomwehle’s wish for the service.

Upon interview, Nomwehle shared her efforts in creating open communication with her family and admits it has been a struggle that she is not willing to give up on. As the oldest of four siblings, “I have faced challenges much greater than myself,’ said the speaker, highlighting  the ability of the human spirit  to overcome difficulties and thus inspire others.

Throughout the WAD proceedings it was made evident that the sense of comfort that many society members have with the HIV pandemic has allowed for people to become complacent and less active in the support and advocacy needed by those affected. Encouragement towards open communication and making commitments to ‘be there’ for those who lack support concluded the service, and proved the 2011 World AIDS Day event a successful and meaningful platform for HIV awareness.

Noxolo Mafu

Caring for the Carers - Nov 2011

There are many unsung heroes around us, people who quietly do what needs to be done every day.  And no matter how busy we are, there is always time to say “Thank you.”   And it means the world to others.  The Annual Carers Day Outing is a thank you to all those who care for children and those who are sick.   This year, carers from three children’s homes , St. Michael’s in Plumstead, St George’s in Wynberg and St. Francis’ in Athlone attended.

Although Cape Town weather is never a sure thing, the sun shone brilliantly out of the clouds over Bishopscourt.   A delicious picnic lunch was prepared by the St George’s Cathedral HIV and AIDS Task Team (CHATT) with platters of chicken, frikkadels, vegetable hors d’oeuvres, green salad, potato salad, bean salad, buttered rolls, ice cream, fruit salad, cake and custard and everyone enjoyed the meal while sitting in the sun outside with a stunning view of Table Mountain and the terraced gardens.  Shireen Vambo and Liz Welsh from CHATT made sure all the arrangements for the day ran smoothly, and deserve a warm thanks.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba arrived and welcomed everyone as the carers stood in a large circle around him.  He said “Thank you for caring.  At times you have to move out of that space and rest to withdraw from caring and nurture yourself.  What you are doing is really Christ-like.  May God bless you.”  He then personally thanked each carer and presented them with a certificate and gift bag prepared by the CHATT team. Mrs. Lungi Makgoba attended as well, and made us all feel at home with her bright smile and warmth.   The carers then began to sing and we all joined them.

After a break, Walter Loening led a reflection on the daily work and challenges of being a carer.  Tessa  from St. Michael’s  Home said the inspiration for her work is  “ I have made a change in one child’s life.  We aren’t able to help everyone ..  that little bit of change - a child who never wanted to go to school, now she goes to school.  One is sitting next to you, now she’s a carer and social work student at UWC.”  The young woman smiled and said, “I had a team that invested in my life, so this is my way of giving back, [to] model to young people. “  It was a wonderful moment, to see her so clearly happy and able to draw strength from her own experience to now care for children herself.

But we mustn’t believe it is easy.  Pearl Molteno of CHATT, who has worked as a child psychiatric nurse, in her wonderfully frank way then said “We need to thank every one of you.  You have courage we haven’t got.  We have courage for our own children, but you work with abandoned children.  They don’t feel loved, they feel rejected by their families and nothing can replace their family.  We admire you for devoting your time and loving care to them by doing what you are doing.”

At the end of the day, we all said good bye to each other with hugs and felt like we could stay there in the Bishopscourt garden for the whole day.

Farzaneh Behroozi