Who are we?

The impact of violence, abuse and dysfunctional families on a diverse urban society like Hillbrow, can be very traumatic and leave lifelong scars of deeply-rooted emotional wounds in the heart of an individual and the community. We, as the Counselling, Care and Support Unit, and as part of the Outreach Foundation, contribute positively towards the prevention of violence and abuse through restoring the moral fibre of society by providing counselling, advocacy, capacity building, community-based research and the provision of a mental ‘safe space’.

Part of the Community Outreach initiative is Counselling, Care and Support interventions that are provided to the participants in our programmes and the community at large.

These initiatives include the following:

  • Case Management – Managing clients individual development plans (IDP);
  • Counselling – Providing regular debriefing sessions, group work therapy to victims of violence, abuse, trauma and bereavement;
  • Pre-rehab intervention – Family reunification, admission to drug treatment centres, and aftercare;
  • Community Awareness – Provide awareness campaigns on issues affecting the community; and
  • Migrant Support initiative – To specifically provide counselling to migrants at risk.

The process of care:

Step 1: Every client is individually assessed by a counsellor worker.

Step2: Intervention decided upon together by the client and counsellor (IDP).

Step3: Exit strategy of the client.

Step4: Follow up.

Counselling is provided in a safe space of care.

Counsellor’s code of conduct 

Our counsellors work to a code of conduct, a practical tool and internal compass that guides all our volunteers, part-time and full-time employees. It is underpinned by an emphasis on our commitment to maintaining a high standard in our ethical and professional approach as counsellors; a high priority on confidentiality, protection of human rights; and offering a professional service to the community.

Read Our Story

Our Goals

We strive to:

Develop family reunification

Provide counselling and support in a safe environment

Undergo weekly street outreaches

Our Team:

Kefiloe Pitso

-Assessment Officer

Sizwe Bottoman

-Assistant Counsellor

Johan Robyn

-Programme Manager

On Our Blog:

Silence is killing us women!

Years of abuse, raped a number of times, physically and emotionally abused, stalked, exploited, deceived, betrayed and penniless are all horrendous things that can happen individually to a person. Add them together, and you have a recipe for depression and suicide.

This is the story of a very brave mother of six, Slindile, who hopes that her story will help other women who are too scared to fight back against abuse. With sheer will and determination and help from the Outreach Foundation, she is taking back her life bit-by-bit, day-by-day.

“Life is hard. I have been traumatised so many times that I have tried to take my life as I saw no way out of the pain and fear.

“I met my husband when I was 18. He paid Lobolo, and I moved in with him with my firstborn. Things were not that bad until we got to our house. When I went to church, the people told me that my husband is not who he says he is. His name and surname aren’t real, and he’s lying to me.

“I never thought about it before, but I knew nothing about him. I had never met his family, and he never spoke of them either. I asked him about the claims that he wasn’t who he said he is, and he got very angry and started fighting with me.

“That was the start of 16 years of abuse.”

Slindile was locked in her house and unable to communicate with anyone for 16 years. During this period, she gave birth to five children and her husband raped her multiple times and emotionally and physically abused her, often with her children nearby or even in the room. He also shouted and cursed both her and the children. The only time she was allowed out was to apply for a SASSA Grant.

“He took my SASSA card and would draw out the money and spend it on himself. My children and I saw nothing. We got nothing. We would be hungry and have nothing to wear. I had one thing to wear, and that was it.

“One day a lady in my street couldn’t stand it anymore and came to help us. She forced her way into our house and gave us some food and clothes. He was very angry, and we paid the price. The same thing happened when my family came and tried to help us.

“I cried all the time. Eventually, my children couldn’t take it anymore. My daughter asked me if I was ok. I tried to hide my sadness, but she said ‘you are not right, tell me! I’m tired of this life, and I will kill myself or do something because I know you are in pain!’

“I was shocked and even more shocked when she told me she knows everything, including what happens in my bed.”

Slindile’s daughter told her that she had had enough and would go on her behalf and report the abuse. She did so, but everyone she spoke to was afraid of her father. But she refused to give up.

“My daughter decided that she’d go to my neighbour and ask her to draw the money out of my SASSA account. She was so brave. She got up before him and stole the card from his hiding place, jumped over the gate and gave it to my neighbour who then quickly withdrew the money and gave my daughter back the card.

“My daughter put the card back in its place. When he woke up, he took the card to get money but found nothing. He came back and shouted and screamed at me.

“I told him that it couldn’t be me because I was right next to him the whole time. That didn’t stop him from being angry at me, and he forced me to go with him to SASSA. My daughter quietly wrote a note for me to show the SASSA people.

“When we sat down with them, I handed the note with the card. They read it, and when he asked them what was happening with our money, they told him that there is nothing they can do and that he would have to wait until the next payment. He was angry and started to shout at them too. He took me to another SASSA branch, and I did the same thing, and thankfully they also told him the same thing after reading the note.

“He was very angry, and when we went home, he left us for a while. I called my children together, and we decided to put that money into an account I had that he didn’t know I had and that we would do this until we had enough money to run away with.

“We did this until December when we ran away from home. But the social worker at the shelter we went to told us we had to go back to him because they didn’t have space for us. We went back to the same abuse for a month until we got space in the shelter.”

One would think that a shelter for abused women and children would do what they could to help them and keep them away from the abuser. But this was not the case.

“The social worker was horrible and made me cry. My daughter said that she wanted to see her dad and the social worker told me that I must send her to him because he is rich and I’m not. But in the time we left, he became a drug dealer, so it wasn’t safe or good for her to go there.

“The social worker wanted him to have custody of my daughter and said that if I didn’t sign the documents, she would. And she did.

“My daughter went back to him. I was scared she would take drugs, and I was right. When I laid a case of abuse against my husband, the social worker and the police didn’t believe me and laughed at me and said they would lock me up for telling lies and wasting their time. She told me we had to leave the shelter by the end of the week.

“I had five children and nowhere to go”.

Slindile eventually found a place for them to stay, but without much money, it was a dump. There was no electricity and no working toilet; they stayed in what would’ve been a bathroom right next to a Tavern. It was all they could afford. When it rained the sewerage from the building would seep through to their area, and the water would come in. The smell was horrendous.

“I managed to find a job sweeping the streets, and I thought things were going to get better. A little while later, I met a man, and he proposed to me. But because I had been hurt before and I have children to worry about, I said no. I didn’t know that he was stalking me. He knew everything about me, where I lived when the children would be there, what I was doing. He knew my every move.

“One day I was ill, and while getting my medicine, I received a call. It was him. He asked me where I was and that he loved me and wanted me. I told him to leave me alone. I got home and there was a knock on my door, it was him. He forced his way in and on me. No one heard my screams.

“When he eventually left, I ran to the police station to lay a charge. While there he called me and told me not to do it. Again he knew where I was. I put the call on the loudspeaker for the police to hear.  He threatened me and then told me he’d pay me R1,000 to keep quiet.

“The police told me to accept that. Police in plain clothes went with me to catch him. He didn’t come. He sent someone else with R500, and other people tried to force me into a car, but luckily I was with the police. I was so scared for my life and my kids’ lives.

“The threats kept coming, and the place I was living in had no security. We were so afraid. We were so lucky as another old man helped us. He asked for a photograph of my attacker so that he could find him and get him away from me.

“He managed to find him at the very same tavern that I stayed next to. The police arrested him, and he is now in jail.

“Meanwhile, I was raped in November, and my daughter who went back to my husband was raped in December and became pregnant.

“But I had nothing, and I was worried about my daughter, so I was forced to go back to my husband. As soon as I returned, he started to rape me all over again. We were stuck there until Jub Jub through his programme Uthando Noxolo, heard my story. He helped me get out.

“We are now in a shelter, except for my daughter, we hope she will get in soon. I’m on medication for depression. I see psychologists and psychiatrists and have many really bad days, but I have to be strong for my children. I’ve got to build up a life for us.

“One of the best things for me has been to come to Outreach Foundation. There’s a safe space for my children when I go to the Foundation’s counselling centre or when I go for training at the Foundation’s Boitumelo.

“The counselling is helping me. Mama Sizwe has helped me a lot especially with me wanting to commit suicide as a way to get rid of all the pain. I know I have to be strong for my children.

Outreach Foundation has made me believe in a future. I want to go to school and get my matric. I have a lot of skills like hairdressing, but I have no papers. I want to be independent, and I want to raise my children with pride. I am learning how to sew at Boitumelo, and I hope I will get a job after. I’m working hard there.

“My goal is to become a traffic officer eventually. I want to make a good future for my children. I want them to see they have a future too and can be what they want to be.”

Slindile wants every woman to speak up for themselves. She is encouraging women to refuse to be a doormat.

“Just because you love him doesn’t mean you need to be his slave or a sex slave. Don’t be afraid to expose him and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“Silence is killing us women. Talk!

“Stress from what we go through is also killing us. Get help!

“And I want us to watch out for the children. They are after money and sugar daddies. We must tell them to love themselves more. They must educate themselves. And they must know that there are many men out there who are monsters and will hurt them. They must be careful and if anything happens to talk and find help.

“I’ve been lucky to come to Outreach Foundation. They are helping my children and me. I ask everyone in the world to be as patient with people going through trauma as they are. It can be the difference between life or death.”

According to Statistics South Africa’s report ‘Crime Against Women in South Africa, an in-depth analysis of the Victims of Crime Survey data 2018 (Report 03-40-05)’,

“…Rape, targeting women and girls, is a serious problem in South Africa. The 2016/17 Victims of Crime statistical release reported that 250 out of every 100 000 women were victims of sexual offences compared to 120 out of every 100 000 men. Using the 2016/17 South African Police Service statistics, in which 80% of the reported sexual offences were rape, together with Statistics South Africa’s estimate that 68,5% of the sexual offences victims were women, we obtain a crude estimate of the number of women raped per 100 000 as 138. This figure is among the highest in the world. For this reason, some have labelled South Africa as the “rape capital of the world”.

In the same report, the question was raised to the respondents as to whether it was acceptable for a husband to hit his wife in various situations. The summary of these results are as follows:

Graph taken from the STATS SA Crime Against Women in South Africa Report

Graph taken from the STATS SA Crime Against Women in South Africa Report

The report highlights many issues surrounding abuse toward women both in the home and externally. It covers topics such as attitudes and perceptions of crime trends, fear of crime, knowledge and access to shelters and the assistance received from them, experience of household crimes, the experience of individual crimes and the reporting of crime to the police and the response victims have had.

*not her real name

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Bipolar is an illness that can be treated – don’t discriminate

Imagine not seeing your daughter for seven years primarily because everyone says you are mad, but you are in fact just living with bipolar disorder, an illness that can be controlled with medication and therapy.

*Palesa suffers from the disorder which causes periods of depression and periods of extreme happiness as well as unusual shifts in activity levels and energy. This then affects a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. The illness has destroyed her life because of ignorance about the disorder, and the stigma attached to mental illness.

“I have tried to commit suicide five times over the years. No one has been there for me. I have been so alone,” says Palesa.

“My life was never easy. My father chased me away when my stepmother died. I managed to survive and then I met my husband, who after 16 years of marriage kicked me out of my home and my child’s life because I was ill.

“I have always helped everyone where I can. I gave money and food to those who were hungry. I was always the first to put money in when there was a death.  I would care for those who were sick. But when I became ill, instead of offering me help, I was laughed at.

“They would laugh when I walked down the street and called me a mad woman.

“I quickly discovered that when days are dark, friends are few.”

Palesa found herself completely ostracised and spiralled into a depression that she couldn’t understand.

“I left my home for Gauteng to try to get my life together.  I went to Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria as I was feeling so ill. They diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. They gave me medication which didn’t work.

“I thought that if I went to church again I would find friends and I would be well. But the friends I made there also started avoiding me. Therapy wasn’t working; medication wasn’t working. I started to give up.”

Palesa refused to turn to illegal drugs to ease her pain or make her ‘feel better’. And although broke as she couldn’t find a job to sustain herself because of her disorder, she would also not turn to prostitution.

“I was battling to get up in the morning. I was so depressed. I didn’t know what to do. And then I heard about the Outreach Foundation’s counselling centre.

“I met Sizwe who listened to my story. She didn’t judge me. She didn’t laugh.

“One day she sat me down and pointed at my ID photo and told me that she would like to see the lady that was in the photograph. The one that was well-dressed, well-looked after and smiling. I didn’t know what she was talking about at first.

“Then I realised that I had given up on myself. I didn’t look normal. I would get up in the morning, brush my teeth and come through to see her. I didn’t bother about what I was wearing, or what my hair looked like, or anything else.

“It was as if I had finally woken up after a long sleep. Psychiatrists hadn’t helped, psychologists hadn’t helped. But this one caring lady uplifted me. She made me see myself again after just three weeks.”

Palesa decided to take back her life. The next time she came to the Outreach Foundation’s counselling centre, she had made some changes.

“I walked into the centre and sat next to Sizwe. She was shocked and so happy. I had bathed, put make-up on, dressed nicely and done my hair. It was very hard to do, but I did it.

“It was the first step. There is a lot still to do, but I’m working on it and Sizwe is still there uplifting me.”

Palesa says that people, especially women, are too scared to talk about their issues or to get help.

“We have been told that we need to be quiet and listen to our husbands. So many of us have had no choice but to bury our illnesses and carry on because we have to look after our families.

“But I have discovered that to say what is inside, to the right person, is therapy.

“It is also stressful though if you don’t know who to talk to or how to share. Before the Outreach Foundation, I didn’t know what to do or where to go.

“I had no support, and that’s exactly what you need. I was so confused about my illness. But now, after such a short time coming to the centre, I feel so much more confident and strong.

“After my husband left me and everyone thought I was mad, I would walk in the street and feel like I was naked yet non-existent. But now I feel like I can go back and fight for my child.

“I feel like I’m a human. Like I can do it. Like I’m beautiful and that I can be what I want to be without needing a man to do it for me.”

Palesa believes that more education needs to be done on the disorder not only for others but for those who have the illness.

“I didn’t know who I was, what was happening or why. I was shouting then screaming then crying for absolutely no reason. Even when I was diagnosed, I wasn’t sure about what needed to be done or what I could do if the medication didn’t work. I didn’t know that there was other medication too. I also didn’t know how important therapy and counselling was.

“People need to know that we are not mad. And that we can be treated and that we need help. They need to support the person.”

By sharing her story during women’s month, Palesa hopes to inspire women who are battling with illnesses such as this to not only speak out but to seek help. She also wants to remind others that like her, it is possible to pull yourself together when you feel like it’s the end.

“I know I have a long way to go still, but I am determined to be who I want to be. I want to fight for my child, and I want to go back and study. I used to be a caregiver in hospice and some hospitals, and I have been a midwife, and although I know I will be a good nurse, my goal is to become a doctor.

“I’m going to keep taking my medication, going to counselling and therapy and do whatever I need to do to get what I want. I thank Sizwe for opening my eyes and for listening.

Palesa also feels strongly about the way women allow themselves to be treated.

“Let us not allow men to “play” with us. Don’t tell yourself you are dependent on him. We need to fight for ourselves and to stand up for one another. If you say you want to be like this, go for it. You can do it. Remember that education is important. No one can take it away from you.

“Men abuse us because they know we have nothing to fall back on. No man can undermine you if you educate yourself.”

But she also worries about the youth.

“Children never see far. We need to encourage young girls to be themselves and not to seek ‘sugar daddies’ or to fall pregnant because they think it’s an easy way to get money from grants. Grants do not get you far, education does.

“Also, if you feel depressed or ill, you must seek help. So many young girls are very depressed and are too scared or ashamed to do anything about it because of the stigma that still exists.

“There are so many women out there who don’t know what to. Please do what I did – speak to someone!”

Palesa is a brave woman fighting for survival from an illness with causes that are not clearly understood. According to the Wikipedia entry for the disorder, ‘…both environmental and genetic factors play a role…environmental factors include a history of childhood abuse and long-term stress. About 85% of the risk is attributed to genetics.’

The entry also states that ‘the risk of suicide among those with the illness is high at greater than six per cent in people over 20 years, while self-harm occurs in 30-40 per cent of people.’ In addition, other mental health issues such as anxiety disorders as well as substance use disorder are commonly associated with bipolar disorder.

More than four million South Africans live with bipolar disorder. It is an illness that does not discriminate between social or education class, race, sex or nationality. It is an illness that is treatable.

*Palesa is not her real name. We have changed her name to protect her identity.

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Recovery Coaching

Recovery Coaching is about:

  • Rebuilding recovery capital in the physical, mental, emotional, social & spiritual areas of your life.
  • Developing a personalised recovery plan in line with your unique goals, dreams & aspirations.
  • Setting achievable, long-term goals and developing short-term action plans to achieve them within predetermined time frames.
  • Identifying harmful triggers that could result in lapse or relapse, and learning to deal with these issues in daily life with the use of forward-focused and solutions-driven tools and techniques.
  • Learning about the physiological and neurological elements of substance and behavioural abuse disorders, and what the major causes of addiction.
  • Understanding and challenging faulty, habitual thought patterns & behaviours, and replacing them with improved ways of dealing with potentially difficult situations.
  • Establishing realistic, personal boundaries to build strong, interdependent relationships in your personal and professional life.
  • Finding the answers to your personal truth and living an empowered, authentic life.
  • Working in a collaborative, accountable relationship with a coach to achieve a more balanced, holistic approach to long-term wellness.
  • Creating a safe space to explore possibilities and the availability of personal and community resources to aid sustained recovery.

Recovery Coaching is not about:

  • Treating addiction…recovery coaching operates within the wellness paradigm and is not addiction treatment.
  • Revisiting the past and the causes of addiction…it’s about moving forward in a solutions’-driven, goal-orientated way.
  • Being given advice and answers to your questions…you have all the answers you need inside yourself.
  • Being told what to do and how to do it…the long-term goals you choose and short-term plans you make will be your own.
  • Holding onto guilt, shame & anger…it’s about letting go of the past, embracing forgiveness and learning to live in the present.
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