Eerste Begin Shelter, Worcester
In March 2008, our director, Synnøv Skorge, was approached by the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) with an exciting proposition. A shelter was badly needed in the Worcester area, a large farming community some 100 km from Cape Town. As the SBC had the expertise, would we assist the DSD and the Worcester municipality to develop an already ear-marked house into a shelter. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity, as it fitted so well into one of our strategic plans to replicate our centre and shelter model wherever possible.
A meeting with Synnøv, the DSD and the mayor of Worcester was duly set up. This resulted in an agreement that the DSD and Worcester municipality would fund SBC to manage the shelter and employ its staff until such time as the shelter could become an independent NPO.
Finally, on 15 August, the shelter was officially opened by the MEC for Social Development in the Western Cape, Minister Zodwa Magwaza. The shelter, Eerste Begin (First Beginnings), opened the doors to the first clients on 1 September 2008.
The Shelter also offers a 24 hour emergency hotline seven days a week, as well as accommodation to women and children from the surrounding rural communities.
Heather West, the shelter manager, has continued to strengthen links with organisations and groups in the community. In particular, strong ties have been established with a group of farmers’ wives, who are keen to be involved in the skills training offered to the women on the farms and in the shelter. As a result of this relationship, some of the shelter residents are working on a neighbouring farm.
Outreach to farm workers and their children continued during the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. On 6 December Eerste Begin Shelter staff and residents held their own t-shirt campaign. Children from a local primary school were invited to join in. After some information on the purpose of painting messages on the t-shirts, everyone got stuck in. A fun morning was had by all, ending with dancing to the music provided. This remains a creative way of getting anti-abuse messages across, both to the public (when the t-shirts are hung up for exhibition or demonstration purposes) and to the participants.