Transitional Shelter For Women In Distress, Pretoria, South Africa
Catherine McAuley generated in her Sisters a deep concern for the sick and dying poor, for those at risk in society and for the spiritual needs of people around her. Inspired by her reverence for people and her insight into the role of women, the South African Province decided to open a shelter for women victims of domestic violence and their young children.
Since 2000 when a house in Pretoria was purchased and renovated to cater for women in distress, the sisters have also extended their services to offer shelter to survivors of trafficking in persons.
While the majority of the women are from Thailand, others come from different African States. Over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of South African survivors. There has also been an increase in the number of women willing to testify against their perpetrators in court.
The Department of Social Development gives approximately 40% towards the running costs of the shelter. The rest of the costs have to be secured through fundraising. Misean Cara, the Mercy Solidarity Fund, the South African Bishops’ Lenten Appeal Fund and the S.A. Bishops’ Foundation, among others, enable this project to continue. Parishioners, students of the local Mercy school and many generous individuals often give donations in kind.
Demonstration against Human Trafficking
The goal of Mercy House continues to be: To walk with homeless traumatized women as they rediscover their self worth and find their place in society. Each year an average of sixty women and twenty-five children are provided with shelter and the basic comforts of life. Usually the women are accommodated from three to six months while they seek employment and earn enough money to rent a room or flat. In the case of pregnant women in need of protection their stay is sometimes longer.
While the women are in Mercy House, they receive individual counselling and all the professional care they may need. Fortunately, hospitals, clinics, churches as well as the law courts are all close by, making it easier to access these services.
Sr. Colleen (3rd left) with the staff from Mercy House
One of the objectives of the project is to empower women towards financial independence through income generating skills. Some of the skills taught are: computer literacy, child care education, hair styling, typing, baking, fabric painting, hand and machine sewing and pattern-drafting. In the life-skills programme the women are taught communication skills, how to draw up a CV, budgeting, conflict management, team building and setting personal goals. Health education is also dealt with, as most of the women are HIV positive.
They are encouraged to go to the church of their own choice, but Bible sharing and prayer sessions are offered to anyone who wishes to take part. In the gardens of the house there is a prayer room where many take the opportunity to pray and reflect quietly alone or with others.
We also have a children’s programme catering for any children who are staying with their mothers. The older ones are able to attend a nursery school in the neighbourhood.
The Bophelo Outreach Project, sponsored by Mercy House, aims to promote a greater understanding of Trafficking in Persons, gender- based violence and HIV/AIDS through awareness and education campaigns offered to the general public.
Workshop for social workers facilitated by staff at Mercy House
Mercy House also has a drop-in centre that offers counselling and advice to people not in residence.
All this work is carried out by a very dedicated staff that is Mercy incarnate.
Land line: +27 12 329 6682
Mobile: +27 76 522 0532