Counselling for 15 women refugees in South Africa

by Institute for Healing of Memories

The Healing of Memories workshop with women refugees was held from the 5-7th March 2010 in Schoenstatt, Constantia. Organisations that work with Refugees, namely Bonne Esperance and Heavenly Shelter sent participants to attend the workshop. These participants were from Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, The Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC ) and RSA. The participants were mainly young women who have just arrived in South Africa, and are confronted with many challenges, including issues they carry from their countries of origin. Some of the issues ranged from rape, torture, trust, HIV/Aids and identity.

During the workshop a short video was shown, relating to Xenophobic incidents. Participants were encouraged to comment and share their feelings, and to think about what could have been done to avoid similar occurrences. Drawings were also used as a form of dialogue during the workshop.

Total number of participants- 26 Gender- Female 22, Male 4 Age: 18- 36yrs

Country represented Number of participants Angola 1 male, 1 female Rwanda 3 females, 1 male Burundi 6 females Zimbabwe 6 females DRC 3 females RSA 2 females, 3 males


One of the challenges was language and communication. It was fortunate that the Institute has some French speaking facilitators. It took a while for some of the participants to trust the process. The limited number of refugees that could attend the workshop. Many more women refugees are interested in attending the workshop but are unable to do so due to limited funding available. Successes:

Although it took a while for participants to trust the process, once they made a breakthrough, they were reluctant to go home. Follow up on issues that emerged took place with the relevant organizations. For example, one women who is HIV/ positive felt exceptionally isolated, however, a week after the workshop, she was already receiving attention.

Feedback from participants attending the Healing of Memories workshops

• They said that it was a very good, touching workshop where they learnt a lot and looked in depth about where they are as women as well as refugees in a foreign land. • People have different problems from different countries despite them being refugees in the same country (SA). • Containing peace within themselves and others is a challenge. • Crying can make you heal. • Painful experiences in one’s life hinders progress and quality of life. • It is important to spend time with loved ones. • Find time to listen and talk to important people in the world. • It is important to make mistakes in life, learn from them and to move forward.

Healing of memories workshops provide a creative and experiential outlet for refugee women to overcome feelings of anger, hatred, prejudice and guilt.

The two and a ½ days spent together is an opportunity for these women to tell their stories in a caring and respectful atmosphere, to be listened to, and to have painful experiences acknowledged.

Tolerance of individual differences is important amongst this group, particularly as many are faced with prejudices on a daily basis. It is important that our communities learn about each other and in that way be brought together.

Often the fight between refugees and South African citizens is interpreted as being a fight for resources. Throughout the time spent together, everyone felt strongly that a sense of solidarity, togetherness, trust and belonging is what is needed in communities.

Our sincere thank you goes to you for your donations to the healing of memories workshops for refugee women. Your support contributes importantly to the healing process that makes a tremendous difference to these women’s lives.

We welcome your questions &/or feedback regarding any aspect of this project.


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Organization Information

Institute for Healing of Memories

Location: Glosderry, South Africa - South Africa
Website: http:/​/​
Institute for Healing of Memories
Project Leader:
Michael Lapsley
Cape Town, Western Province South Africa

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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