In South Africa Kolping supports young mothers from poor families under the SPARK programme. It literally gives many participants the spark they need to steer their lives in a new, positive direction. Young women receive help with parenting issues, they learn how to deal with the harm inflicted on them in their families. And they look ahead into the future. They are given the chance of training and an independent life with their children. Barbara Demmer from the fundraising department travelled to Cape Town in October to visit the SPARK project.
“Kolping has changed my life!“ I often read such statements or hear them from my colleagues when they return from their project countries. That makes me very happy. Because it confirms me in my efforts to ask for donations for projects around the world. But of course it’s something completely different to be there in person and to talk to the people who can lead a better life thanks to the help of Kolping. I experienced this on my trip to places like Tafelsig near Cape Town. Here, around 20 young mothers who have just completed their training course under the SPARK programme welcome me in the rooms of the township’s parish. The tenor of all mothers is: “Thanks to Kolping, I have been given a new chance. I grasped this opportunity and my life has changed.”
Kolping gives young mothers a perspective
The SPARK programme is managed by Anthea November, who assists young mothers who come from poor families and have often been exposed to violence. Without an education or family support, many see no way forward and are completely discouraged. “With us, the young women experience appreciation for the first time in their lives,” says Anthea November. “They are often insulted and belittled by their families. They are really desperate.”
With us at Kolping, they can speak openly for the first time in a protected environment: What they have experienced, what their wishes are. They receive psychological support and encouragement from specialists. During these two weeks, the women, who did not know each other beforehand, develop such close bonds that they feel strong and supported. All the women emphasize this strength of community in our conversations.
Many women have family problems
Many women have problems with their parents or their partner. In the seminar, they address these issues and tears often flow. The injuries inflicted by their family are written down. Afterwards, the notes are burned, symbolically concluding the process and leaving room to shape the future. “I can forgive, but I can’t forget,” say many of the young girls in the group. And they shouldn’t. But the discussions help them to become strong. They focus on their strengths, are allowed to express their wishes and think about what career they would like to pursue.
Kolping arranges internships in the desired occupation
Those who want to become a nurse, for example, are first placed in a home care internship. This allows the women to try out whether this job meets their expectations in practice. Those who are dreaming of a job in the hospitality industry learn the basics in a crash course and are then assigned to smaller work placements. This often results in an offer to do a training course and become a permanent employee. Manicure, office assistance – Kolping helps to take the first steps. The girls then have to continue on their own. “Some of them are so motivated that they even catch up on their school-leaving qualifications so that they can then work in their dream job,” says project coordinator Anthea happily. A great success.
Help with parenting
This course is about life with children and specific parenting issues. Here, too, the young mothers receive educational support.
Monique is 25 and appears self-confident and open-minded. That wasn’t always the case: “I was depressed. But SPARK has changed my life. Thank you for believing in us. I used to be very impatient and often yelled at my son. Here I have learned to be sensitive to my child. Now I can understand my son better and I get on much better with him. I set myself goals and believe in myself. SPARK has opened many doors for me.”
Andolesia is 30 years old and the mother of two children, the youngest one is sleeping in a baby sling. She took the SPARK course to learn how to cook and bake and will soon be working in the kitchen of a hospital. “The working hours there are better for me as a mother,” she says, beaming with satisfaction.
Prospects for young women
Jeromisa, the woman with the white hat, reports: “I had no self-confidence and was abused by my partner. I didn’t dare open my mouth and speak in front of others. Here I learned to speak in front of strangers. This Kolping community has made me strong. Then I started a training course in administration. I was really scared that I wouldn’t make it. But I did it, and I’m very proud of myself.”
During our meeting, parish priest Fr. Kizito enters the room and quietly joins the circle. You can feel the trust the young women have in him. Towards the end, he says some very personal words that have stayed in my mind. “When I see women, I see my mother in them,” he says. “She was a strong woman who raised us five children on her own. She did it, and you can do it too. Don’t question yourselves. Don’t give up. Don’t listen to others.”
Since the project was launched seven years ago, around 500 women have taken part in the SPARK programme. This was made possible thanks to the support of many donors.