Westbury women take healing journey with Elizabeth's Walk to get back on their feet

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Nadine Gibbs, founder of Elizabeth Walk. Image supplied
Nadine Gibbs, founder of Elizabeth Walk. Image supplied
  • Elizabeth's Walk's major goal is to be there for women, to hold their hands, to cook them a meal and to walk their journey with them.
  • Gibbs has meetings every second Saturday, solely to be a source of support for women in the region, and she hosts a "buy with no money" bazaar every two months.
  • Most women who seek help from Gibbs are either drug or alcohol addicts or have spouses or children who are.

"We are a forgotten people, but I know there's still a lot of good that can be found in Westbury," Nadine Gibbs says as we chat about this community in the west of Johannesburg that she loves so much.

Having lost two partners to violent crime, the 43-year-old single mother is passionate about breaking the cycle of drug addiction and violence in her neighbourhood. And that's what sparked the birth of her organisation, Elizabeth's Walk, in 2020.

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Gibbs explained that the main purpose of Elizabeth's Walk is to be there for broken women and walk the journey with them.

"Many women deal with their trauma alone. We want to be there to hold their hands, cook them a meal and walk the road with them. If we are unable to assist, we will find other organisations that can. But we will not leave them alone."

Elizabeth's Walk
Elizabeth's Walk. Image supplied

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"I was raised by a single mother myself, I know how difficult life can be. Women often suffer in silence, so I wanted to create a safe space for women to come and just talk."

Gibbs holds meetings every second Saturday just to be a source of strength for the women in the area. "We gather in people's lounges or backyards where we share our stories and encourage each other."

Once every two months, she hosts a "buy with no money" bazaar.

"Clothes are donated to us. We print vouchers and hand them out to the women. They present these on the day of the bazaar and are able to "purchase" any item of clothing.

"The reason we give them the vouchers is to rebuild their confidence and give them a sense of honour."

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Most of the women who come to Gibbs for help have been dealing with drug addiction or alcohol abuse in their homes. They're either addicts themselves or have a spouse or child struggling with it. Elizabeth's Walk provides a safe space for these women to come and share their pain.

"Elizabeth's Walk took me in with open arms from the very first day. I found change and started to learn about what grace means. They showed me what it means to care for a sister in need and to love her, how to pick a sister up when she falls down," says Tanya Nancho, who struggled with addiction.

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"I never went to rehabilitation, so it was very tough for me to keep myself clean because the people I used to smoke with were around every day, so it had a major effect on me. Looking back, I realise how broken I was. I was constantly thinking of how I could get my next fix," Nancho adds. Being around the women at Elizabeth's Walk helped her grow stronger and she has managed to stay clean.

Elizabeth's Walk
Elizabeth's Walk. Image supplied
Elizabeth's Walk
Elizabeth's Walk. Image supplied

Another woman spoke of how the organisation had helped her daughter deal with the trauma of gang rape.

"The ladies of Elizabeth Walk came to my house and prayed with my daughter when she was really in a dark place. She stopped speaking for years since the attack, but they never got tired of coming to my house and sharing God's love with her. Now she's talking non-stop," the mother said.

The organisation depends on donations from the community, family members, and local churches.

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"I have two daughters, so I also want to break the cycle. I want my daughters to see that there's a better life out there that they too deserve," Gibbs says.

She wants Elizabeth's Walk to be a beacon of light in the community that will change the lives of the women they come into contact with.

"We have been raised in a poverty-stricken community. We are exposed to a lot of crime, but there's also a lot of good that comes out of Westbury. I think as coloured people, we have been set aside. We get looked at in a different way because of the stigma attached to us," Gibbs says.

"Even in the Bible, it was asked what good can come out of Nazareth, but Jesus came out of there. So I believe that a lot of good can come out of Westbury as well."

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