All Ann Agulhas wants to do is to be reunited with her children.
This is her sole motivation.
The 32-year-old mother from Steenberg is currently staying at a safe home provided by the Life Changers Foundation.
She sought help after her life fell into a state of chaos, something she has had to deal with throughout her life, which started in Silvertown in 1986.
“What brought me to where I am today I had to go back 20 years to realise what I went through. I suppressed it for many years and after all of that I witnessed two suicides, one of which was a family member, and then later a late boyfriend of mine got shot. Everything I went through in life, the trauma I just kept on suppressing,” she says.
The mother of three says after she got divorced and her youngest daughter fell ill five years ago, she started losing control over her situation, which came to a head earlier this year.
“Things got extremely out of control this year to the point where I got involved with gangsterism, drugs and everything and I lost my kids in the process. I had numerous raids at my house because of the gangsters. Eventually my family just had enough,” she says.
She spent two months in Johannesburg, but made the choice to come back home to make the change herself.
“My motivation is my kids. My four-year-old son visited me and I gave him a toy. His response to the toy was that I needed to keep it, because it will remind me of him and I need to give it to him when I move back into our place. For my four-year-old to say that he wants us back together as a family – it is my motivation to get better,” she says.
Agulhas is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.
“We are so misguided by everything else that is going on around us that we don’t see the plan and the purpose for our life. I believe that everything that has happened to me is God’s way of entrusting me by helping the next person who finds themselves in my situation. I have had to forgive myself and accept that I was wrong. It has been an amazing two months. It wasn’t easy from the time I spent with my uncle in Johannesburg,” she says.
Meanwhile, founder of the Life Changers Foundation Brandon Eckardt says that despite the premises being used to house women from a volatile background, the services on offer are open to anyone who reaches out to them for help, as long as they make the choice themselves.
“It is not a safe house – we don’t want that. It is more a place of mentorship. The house mother mentors them. The ladies may come from a crazy background and may need to be taught how to be a woman again. They sleep here, but in the morning they go out to the centre. We don’t want them to come to a place where they are just kept in between four walls. This is not rehabilitation. Rehab is a word which has a negative connotation, because it is where you are sent. When we speak of restoration it is more you are coming because you want to restore your life. We are talking about getting them ahead in life,” he says, adding that the programmes at the Life Changers Foundation centre teach the women job readiness as well as how to integrate back into society functionally.
“When someone gets clean off drugs, what do they do then? Nothing. They need to get back into society and become productive and our programme is built around that. It is life tools – how to be human again, how to conduct, speak and carry yourself. In interviews – what do you say and what don’t you say. We are big on books. Reading is absolutely important,” says Eckardt.
He says that even when clients leave the foundation, the ties are never broken.
“When they come to Life Changers they become family. Ann is running the kitchen at the centre, because we have a cooking course at the centre. So what she has to do is sit with the new clients with pen and paper. She brings a book and teaches them. So she teaches them something. When she leaves, she is not gone. When that phase ends we encourage them to come to the support group on Wednesday nights, the mothers and fathers we have a group for them as well. So we sort of become part of the family. That is how we know who is part of their lives so if they do slip up, they have a crutch to lean on. We are big on no judgment. I don’t care what you did, we all make mistakes. So come back again and let’s do this thing again.”