Cradle of Hope - a safe haven for abused women and children over Christmas
Hope – something abused women and children share at a ministry in Krugersdorp over Christmas.
Many spend the festive season with loved ones, but for abused women, their children and teenage girls, The Cradle of Hope in the West Rand city is their safe haven.
Melodie van Brakel, who established the organisation in 2007, said the people it helped are often victims of domestic violence, abuse, sexual trauma, human trafficking and prostitution, or recovering from drug abuse.
The non-profit organisation relies on donations from the private and corporate sectors.
“December celebrations often take an ugly turn. With the escalated use of alcohol and drugs, partner violence and sexual abuse increases proportionally.
“Many a woman, often with their children, shows up on The Cradle of Hope doorstep during this time – traumatised, afraid and alone, with blood running down her face or legs, wearing only the clothes she has on her back.”
Kay*, 47, arrived at the safe haven about six months ago. She will spend her first Christmas there. She said the last Christmas she had experienced was six years ago.
Her family and 14-year-old son have disowned her.
“I cry daily. Seeing the abundance of Christmas presents delivered by generous donors makes me sad and happy at the same time.
“Sad, because my children never had presents and happy because there are children out there who will.”
Five-year-old Omega* said she was looking forward to the “best Christmas ever”.
This will be the first time she will have presents under the tree and a proper lunch with all the trimmings.
“Her excitement is infectious. You can't help but see the smallest things, often taken for granted, with fresh eyes and renewed gratitude.
“In a house filled with laughter and joy, they are made to feel special and normal — in short, the kind of Christmas every child deserves to have,” said Van Brakel.
Despite the non-profit organisation being stretched this season, everything possible is being done to provide a “family atmosphere” for the women and children, she said..
“Sadly, it does not make up for the absence or loss of those they love most. Often the emotional distress is simply too overwhelming. Many relapse in an attempt to numb the pain and loneliness.
“Some contemplate and even attempt suicide. In December, the need within the greater Krugersdorp community also increases drastically.”
Van Brakel said their feeding scheme provides about 350 adults and children with sandwiches daily.
Hundreds of food parcels are packed with basic food items and a few special treats to ensure that no family goes hungry on Christmas Day.
She said about 600 gift bags containing toys, food, school bags, stationery, new clothing and shoes are handed out to the community's children.
“That is why Kay, despite her personal circumstances and the emotional turmoil of a season that is all but festive, feels only gratitude. Because this year, she has something she’s never had before, hope.”
* Real names withheld to protect identities.