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When ‘all is lost’ what then?
Family Centre in Benoni you really appreciate just how tough times are. Here you’ll come face- to face with 80 good people who’ve been hard hit. Your heart specially bleeds for the kids who you can see are bewildered behind their brave little faces.
But the children here are among the lucky ones. As Major Jeff Stafford, the administrator who heads up the centre, says “ today when jobs are lost, people turn to gambling, alcohol, drugs and abuse; some live on the streets, but many find their way to us. These are the fortunate ones who stay until they can find their feet.”
For most it’s a temporary shelter – families, single men and women, with a few long-term pensioners. Hope is everywhere. We see it in Belinda Haywood* and her two sons, Anthony* (8) and Thomas* (6). Behind her beautiful smile is the pain of a tragic young life.
Belinda’s mother died in a car accident when she was just two. Her dad looked after her and her brother for two years before remarrying. He was a very strict parent and an alcoholic who physically abused her when drunk. At times he terrified her.
The last time he beat her, Belinda was 16. In his drunken state he hit her so hard, there was blood everywhere. She ached all over, felt desperate and swore this would be the last time. She had to get away from him, from Welkom, and phoned her gran in Mosselbay whom she hadn’t seen since her mum’s funeral 14 years ago.
Her gran took her in, but as there was no money for further schooling she started working as a waitress. Two years later she got a job as an administrator and a year later had another good offer as a PA in Kempton Park and was soon promoted to payroll administrator. She met her husband, David, at a friend’s wedding where he was the disc jockey. It When you visit a shelter like The Salvation Army’s to face was love at first sight. They married and had two sons. David is bi-polar and suffered from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and never worked. She was the only breadwinner and soon after she was retrenched in March 2015, David packed up and left to live with his mother, leaving Belinda to raise their sons on her own!
She was heartbroken, stressed and desperate. She had to protect her kids at all costs. They managed to survive for three months. “When you’re down and out family and friends don’t want to know you,” she says sadly. Her worst fears became reality: she and the kids were homeless. She found temporary accommodation at the Maranata shelter in Brakpan, then at Angel Wings in Pitfontein. This was not the life she’d dreamt of for her family, pictured below with Major Carin Holmes.
In January 2016 she met Steven* who promised to take care of her and the boys. Their lovely, normal lives were cruelly shattered when Steven’s mother was brutally murdered. Unable to handle the shock, Steven turned to drugs, became abusive. She and the kids lived in fear and were often forced to stay with friends. Once, heavily drugged, he threatened to cut her up and bury her alive. Terrified, she went to the Police but they could do nothing. Steve’s job loss and threats saw Belinda and the kids move from one unsavoury shelter to another. The last had 900 homeless people, including rapists, convicts, and murderers. Drugs, alcohol and fighting were rife. No place for children. Being labelled ‘shelter’ or ‘mission’ kids was the least of her worries. Many kids at these shelters have been abused, or abandoned, or have run away from home and become ‘street-wise’. They live in ‘survival’ mode, become unruly, swear, smoke, take drugs… This life was not what she wanted for her boys.
Belinda’s prayers were answered when she found an opening at The Salvation Army Benoni Family Centre, where she has been for three months. She’s managed to get her boys into a local primary school and is determined to give them a good education and to be the best possible mother. “We are a happy little family here.” she comments. “We feel safe. It’s a place of peace and happiness, for new beginnings. Everyone is very kind and caring. Both kids are content and would like to become junior soldiers at the church.”
Listening to Belinda’s story makes one realise what wonderful support The Salvation Army shelters give to those facing hardships. Only with your continued help can we keep on providing what is often a life-saving service in the name of God. May His blessings be heaped on you!
PS: Thinking of children and homes inevitably makes us think how every child needs a pet and so we’re passing on a couple of tips for you to pass on to help with pets and some we hope you’ll find generally helpful.
*Names have been changed to protect identities