Change Happens at the Speed of Trust

Little by little, the Umthombo team began to witness a change in Sibongile. Her outlook on life became more positive and she started to express a real desire to continue with her education and pick up her high school qualifications again.Karin Joseph shares a story from Umthombo’s girls’ outreach team in Durban.

Sibongile has big dreams about her life… although she realises some of the opportunities which have passed her by, she has confidence and is self-driven to try all over again.” Hloniphile, lead girls’ outreach worker — Umthombo, South Africa

Sibongile is 21. Umthombo’s outreach team first met her in 2017 on the streets of Durban, where she had been living for five years. She grew up with her grandmother north of Durban.

When she was 14 years old this living situation fell apart after her grandmother was arrested and sentenced for murder whilst trying to protect Sibongile from a sexual assault after an intruder broke into their home.

After her grandmother’s imprisonment, Sibongile was moved to a ‘place of safety’ — an institutional centre for girls but ran away after a few months finding it too difficult to adjust to life there. She then found her way onto the streets and like so many others, still a child herself, she become a mother.

When Umthombo’s outreach team met Sibongile it took time for her to begin to trust them. She saw the team coming to the streets week by week to stay in touch and offer friendship. It took more than a year before she began to engage with the team and became a regular part of the activities. She accepted one-to-one support where she was able to open up and share some of the trauma she had experienced.

When she was 14 years old this living situation fell apart after her grandmother was arrested and sentenced for murder whilst trying to protect Sibongile from a sexual assault after an intruder broke into their home.

Little by little, the Umthombo team began to witness a change in Sibongile. Her outlook on life became more positive and she started to express a real desire to continue with her education and pick up her high school qualifications again. In December 2018, Sibongile’s grandmother was released from prison on parole after serving seven years of her sentence. Four months on from this, in March 2019, Sibongile, supported by Umthombo, was able to move away from the streets.

Over that time she’d managed to secure a casual job for herself, which meant she could build a shack in her home area providing shelter for her and her two children. She also managed to save up enough money to extend her shack to accommodate her grandmother.

What’s especially profound about the work of Umthombo is not only the patience and time invested in the young people and that ability to journey with them through all the changing circumstances of their lives but also the sense of family that comes along with that. When Sibongile left the streets in March 2019, two boys in Umthombo’s post-16’s boys’ programme helped her to pack and move her belongings from the abandoned building where she was living and helped her to build her shack.

In December 2018, Sibongile’s grandmother was released from prison on parole after serving seven years of her sentence. Four months on from this, in March 2019, Sibongile, supported by Umthombo, was able to move away from the streets.

Umthombo staff were touched by the solidarity they witnessed in these moments. Yet, as with any of our lives, the unexpected can be just around the corner. In April this year, Durban was hit by unprecedented flooding from storms linked to Cyclone Idai which devastated Mozambique and Zimbabwe further north. Sibongile’s newly-built shack was among the homes ruined by these floods, and she had to move back to the abandoned building she had been living in on the streets.

Hloniphile, lead girls’ outreach worker — Umthombo, South Africa

Big dreams: “Sibongile has big dreams about her life… although she realises some of the opportunities which have passed her by, she has confidence and is self-driven to try all over again.” Hloniphile (above), lead girls’ outreach worker — Umthombo, South Africa.

Umthombo was there to help her to secure some emergency assistance through the Durban City Municipality, but it was a slow process. Sibongile, already having come so far was determined to surpass all of these challenges. She secured herself another shelter in a nearby informal settlement, moving in July. This was only possible because she had been putting away savings from her casual job. Umthombo managed to provide some basic house furniture, but their real joy was to see Sibongile able to move forward with her own savings when the adversity hit.  

Sibongile is currently waiting for her birth certificate, which will allow her to secure identity documents and then apply for social grants for her children. Her longer term plan, which she has developed with Umthombo, is to apply for government subsidised housing for herself and her young family once the documents she needs are secured.

Sibongile, already having come so far was determined to surpass all of these challenges. She secured herself another shelter in a nearby informal settlement, moving in July.

From the first time of meeting Sibongile on the streets, Umthombo’s workers were a patient presence in her life. As the relationship of trust slowly built between them, the team learnt things about Sibongile which enabled them to help her move forward with what she wanted to achieve.

Hloniphile, Umthombo’s lead girls’ outreach worker reflected that “Sibongile has big dreams about her life… although she realises some of the opportunities which have passed her by, she has confidence and is self-driven to try all over again. Her engagement in the girls’ programme has encouraged her to take responsibility for herself and her two kids. Since being able to secure a home again, she’s been very excited and expressed that she was tired of life in the streets… we are so proud of Sibongile continuing to make means upon her life.”

— — — — — — — —

Please watch and share our short film ‘On Her Terms about our work with girls and young women who live on the streets.

— — — — — — —

Please sign up to receive Amos Trust’s E-news which will keep you updated about our work in Palestine, our On Her Terms campaign for girls and young women on the streets and our Climate Justice work in Nicaragua.




Please support Amos Trust

At the core of Amos Trust’s work are the individuals who support us. Our work is made possible by you. Large or small, your donation makes a real difference.

Give Now

CONTACT US

Amos Trust
St Clement’s
1 St Clement’s Court
London
EC4N 7HB
United Kingdom

Telephone:
+44 (0) 20 7588 2638
Email:
office@amostrust.org
Registered Charity No.
1164234

AMOS SOCIALS

Amos Trust on Facebook Amos Trust on Twitter Amos Trust on Instagram

The item has been added to your cart.

Continue shopping Checkout Close