Following the completion of our Peer Counsellor Training, we were delighted to be in a position to be able to take on 5 new staff members and in April we welcomed Gloria, Watson, Sandra, Temi and Lameck to our team. Hailing from Congo DRC, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Malawi respectively, together the 5 bring a range of new skills and experience to AMP and we are very excited to have them on board. We are already very proud of what they, and the other, participants achieved in their training and we are confident that together we will go from strength to strength.
As luck would have it, our new staff members joined AMP just prior to Africa Day on 25th May 2015 and what better way to mark the day than celebrate the African unity and diversity in our own organisation. To celebrate, the team were hosted at Gahlia’s house where Murray Kilgour very kindly facilitated a strategic session focussing on AMP’s values both in terms of our work with our beneficiaries but also within our own team and with all other stakeholders.
From my personal experience working as a peer counsellor I have learned a lot and also seen how the programme has assisted vulnerable refugee and migrant women. In sharing our life stories in the support group, I’ve seen how many women get strength from their peers and the stories of hardship and challenges. I have also noticed that many of the women need information about how to manage their lives in South Africa and they need support.
Many women were touched by the topic ‘Loss Grief and Healing’ which we address in one of the support group sessions. Most of them could relate to the topic and could identify at which stage they were at in the process. For example, one lady who joined the group didn’t want to talk to anyone in the beginning. She was angry at everyone after the loss of her husband, her identify, and her family. She was so distressed that she could not even take care of herself. After discussing this topic, she agreed to finally share her story and her problem and open her heart to let go what was driving her mad. She was able to reconnect to the world.
In early April, AMP held our very first follow-up session for previous participants of our Peer Support Group Programme. As part of our M&E cycle, AMP has incorporated 3-month follow up sessions into the structure of our Support Group Programme to enable us to evaluate the longer term impact that the programme has had on our participants – thus helping us determine whether the assistance we provide in our support groups is sustainable.
We invited all of the members from the seven groups that ran from September-December 2014 to come back and share with us how the programme continues to make an impact in their lives even after the intervention has completed, if at all. The feedback we received via questionnaires and focus groups from those who did attend was very encouraging.
As one of very few organisations working with migrants and refugees in Cape Town and even in South Africa, we often receive enquiries and requests from students and researchers wishing to work with us as part of their research. In particular, researchers often wish to interview our peer counsellors and/or our beneficiaries. At AMP, we really value the essential role that academic research plays in influencing policy and impacting change in the fields or refugee affairs and migration and so we feel our role in participating and assisting in research is essential and important. There are however times and ways in which participation and assistance in research is not beneficial and in worst cases, even causes harm but in other cases, wastes valuable and limited resources. As such, it is important for AMP to have a clear policy as to how we, as an organisation, engage with research so as to optimise success and most importantly, protect our employees and beneficiaries.
To this end, AMP has recently worked with, and been assisted by, Theresa Alfaro Velcamp and Rob Mc Laughlin both from the University of Cape Town who have developed an extremely helpful checklist for collaboration in research.
The recent wave of xenophobic violence that swept through the country has placed the plight of refugees and migrants in South Africa very much in the public eye as the nation watched in horror as people were killed, hurt, displaced and frightened. Even now, though much of the violence has subsided, Operation Fiela is in full swing and news of aggressive raids and arrests of foreigners assault us almost daily. Additionally, although other mass violence may have been quelled, we know that isolated incidents and threats of xenophobic violence still take place regularly and unpredictably. As a result, foreigners in South Africa including our beneficiaries and many of our staff, find themselves feeling anxious and frightened - feeling at risk as they go about their daily lives.
As a team, our hearts go out to all of those people who have been affected by xenophobic violence. We stand together for our brothers and sisters from other countries and we lend our deep care and concern to those who are hurt and scared; and to those for whom this experience evokes the trauma of the horrendous experiences which caused them to flee their home countries.