Shared Stories

The story of Homie Z

“If I could sum up the year of 2019 in one word, it would be ‘Homie Z’.

This client came to Community Keepers almost every day for a year. He had suffered through complex and multiple trauma before moving to live with his eldest sister and starting a new school. He now attended school, but he could not speak the language. His behaviour showed heightened levels of aggression both in the classroom and on the playground, as this young man did not experience a sense of belonging.”

Through the wonder and process of play, the therapist was able to build a therapeutic relationship with him, and overcome the barriers present in therapy. CK was a place that he could feel safe and was able to build a sense of mastering where, the rest of the day, he felt incompetent.

Later in the year Community Keepers had two sessions with his sister, who is his caregiver. She was given guidance and support on how to deal with his anger problems. She implemented the tools and activities discussed and it has reflected in Homie Z’s behaviour. His class teacher reports a dramatically positive change in his behaviour. He is not aggressive anymore. He has also managed to make a positive friendship with a boy in his class.

The story of our Hooded Girl

The hooded girl (15) has been a client since February 2019. One of her teachers observed her playing with a razor blade in her mouth and felt concerned.

The therapeutic journey has been a gradual process of connecting, establishing a relationship of trust and safety, discovering the self of the learner and the therapeutic process, creating moments to share information on how to cope with negative thoughts and feelings and replacing maladaptive coping techniques with healthier coping strategies.

For the first few sessions there was just silence and a few awkward moments of eye contact, soft murmurs and head nods. As the therapeutic relationship became more comfortable for the learner and she developed trust in her Keeper; she started to become more expressive and participated in the sessions. The Keeper observed the learner over the course of 7 months and noticed changes, such as the way she began to confidently express her thoughts, feelings and opinions, the manner in which she started to show her face which was previously hidden by her clothing.

At the end of term three, the educator that referred the learner to Community Keepers shared some positive feedback:

“There has been a very big improvement in the learner’s marks.

“…whatever you are doing it is working. Thank you very much.”

“the clowns that she draws in her books have become happier.” Previously the learner would draw sad, angry looking clowns (like Chucky or Pennywise).

The learner was given a space to reveal herself in the therapy room. By exploring and working through her conflicting feelings; she has become braver, more confident and assertive.

The Keeper merely facilitated the process with the learner by being present, patient, reflecting back on what she felt and observed in the session and enabling the learner to find her voice at her own pace and in her own time.

“The best way to describe this ‘change’ is to see it as the client’s process of transformation: her brave attempt of slowly emerging from her cocoon of shame, shyness, and uncomfortableness.”

Another two educators, shared their feedback regarding the client:

“She is a lot more vocal and approaches people a lot more. Seems to be more at ease in the school”.

“Socially the learner has improved tremendously. She has formed a small group of friends together with her sister. She has verbally asked to participate in reading in class, greets me personally every morning, asked for responsibility (she likes to open the classroom door every morning) and has walked towards me to greet out of her own. She has voiced her concerns, with her sister about bullying in class. In the past she would shy away from any form of attention. She however still seeks out people she trusts before becoming comfortable. I am very proud of the learner’s improvement”.

The Keeper has been reminded of how important it is to be patient with our clients. To silently, but attentively observe how they shift, grow, evolve and move even closer to the person they desire to be. It has been an honour to work with this client and to see her become more comfortable with herself, her ideas, her voice and her differences.

Matt’s story

Matt* (16) reports that he and his brothers live in a flat with their mother. None of the boys’ fathers are involved in their lives. Their mother is often absent and the boys are left alone without parental care, support or supervision. At times the community provides food and transport for them.

He has been coming to Community Keepers since March 2019. He referred himself for feeling depressed. He often had anger outbursts, was very shy and withdrawn and felt awkward in social settings.

“With the help of therapy, he discovered his gifts and talents and became progressively more confident. He even competed in a talent show at his school, something he would never have done in the past. He has discovered healthy ways to cope with his anger and to begin forgiving his mother for all the things that she is not.”

A miraculous change has taken place in his mindset and heart, where he can see hope again.

“I have learnt more about my emotional mental state. I have also learnt to go a little beyond my limitations, slowly. I have noticed that what I see in myself isn’t always what other people see. I feel mostly happy now, and hopeful about my future.”

Kyle’s story

In 2018 a 12 year old boy was referred by his teacher for disruption of classes and getting into fights on the school grounds. He could not control his temper or emotions very well and would also finish his work early and then, because he was bored in class, he caused disruptions

Referral source: educator
Referral reason: disruption of classes and getting into fights on the school grounds.

The client could not control his temper or emotions very well
The client would also finish his work early and then, because he was bored in class, he caused disruptions.
Intervention plan:
Helping the client understand these emotions and where they stem from
Working on controlling emotions and appropriately reacting to situations he may find himself in.
In the classroom we asked that teachers handed him extra work for the times he finished ahead of the other learners.

Working with a solution focused perspective the practitioner and client looked at the consequences of not being able to control one’s emotions or reacting in an inappropriate way to situations or problems. They then looked at solutions towards various situations and what to do, to have a better outcome in these situations.

The conclusion was that the client focused more in class and did not disrupt the class as much as before. He also developed new ways to resolve conflict.

“Miss, you are different, you try to understand and help me”

His parents are very pleased with the progress their son has made.
“Miss, thank you for all the help, patience, care and tons of love during the year for Kyle*. We sincerely appreciate all the support and guidance you have given him over the past year.”

Sammy’s story

Sammy* (16) is a bright young woman who was referred to CK by the local hospital after being raped when she went to visit family friends.

She showed classic signs of post-traumatic stress and, among other things, struggled to concentrate, had flashbacks, was more reserved, refused to go out alone and was more prone to outbursts of anger. Her sleeping pattern was very disturbed due to flashbacks, fears and nightmares. The lights had to stay on at night and she didn’t want to sleep on a bed or alone in her room. From her body narrative she was clearly still trapped in a freezing reaction and initially showed little movement or emotional expression.

At CK, Sammy felt safe in finding her balance again and releasing excessive trauma energy. We have worked on ways to better regulate her emotions and energy so that she can stay within her optimal zone of functioning without having to go into a defensive response physiologically during the times when she is in fact, safe.

Any sexual abuse often causes problems with regards to personal boundaries and we have worked to strengthen her inner sense of what is safe and unsafe. Over time, Sammy felt ready to sleep on her bed in her own room without fear. She feels comfortable and safe with a soft light on during the night.

“Not only was she able to sleep in her own bed at night without fear, but she again showed a relaxed spontaneity at home and at school”.

Our story about about the boxing bag

A nine year old boy referred to CK by his teacher in 2019 due to aggressive behaviour in and out of the classroom. There were many times he would refuse to do any class work and there were days that he would run out of the classroom and walk around outside. His school pants were torn, through rough play, and he wore a long sleeve shirt on very hot days. He lives with his grandparents and they are not actively involved in his life and don’t attend parent evenings or scheduled appointments. His mother is young, and the school does not have her contact details.

“At first he was reluctant to take the parent consent note home but fortunately we could get permission to see him. During the first session he did not talk much, he sat for a long time in the chair keeping his head down. So, I sat with him. After a while he began playing with the toy soldiers on the shelf but that was the only thing he felt comfortable doing. I realised that he was being labelled as the ‘problem child’ and it seemed that he felt rejected. It was not easy for him to trust anyone. He only trusts his grandfather and uncle.”

After two sessions I asked whether he was willing to box the punching bag. He had so much energy, he boxed for at least half of the session. I began to play with him during the sessions, we would throw and bounce the ball to each other and throw it through a make-believe hoop as if we were playing basketball. We would do that for an entire session, and he would be panting heavily because of how tired he was. He had a lot of built up frustration that he was able to release during the sessions in a physical way. The therapeutic relationship is a healing tool in itself and most often the only place a child is able to be a child.”

X shares his story

X* (18) is in matric and is one of our long-term clients, he describes his process at Community Keepers as a journey that started in 2017, filled with hardships, facing truths, understanding his trauma, confronting his church, working on his relationships with his mother and allowing himself to become more authentic.

His journey started at a very vulnerable time as he, for the first time, disclosed that he was a survivor of a crime. This painful admission in the safe space CK created, assisted with the healing process and allowed him to start exploring his identity. In time, his self-confidence improved, he achieved new academic heights, and he claimed a leadership position in the school as well as on the Community Keepers learner committee.

A staff member at the school, expressed the following:
“Last year, as X was walking towards the stage to deliver a farewell speech to an educator on behalf the learners, the loud cheers he received made my heart swell with pride. This confident young leader is the opposite of the withdrawn, unsure boy I met three years ago. His distinctive smile remains part of his humanness, but he no longer hides behind it’’.

He plays an active role in the community and for learners in the school facing similar challenges. X is proud of who he is, although he knows his journey is far from being over. He now feels more confident with the personal tools he has developed to overcome challenges he once thought were impossible. X is very hopeful about his future

A story about grief

A nine-year-old boy was referred to CK following the death of his friend. He suffered from situational depression, showed symptoms of irritability and a decline in his academic performance.

His teacher reports that he is back to his old self again. The depressed mood has lifted, his schoolwork is back up to his usual standard and he had good interactions with his classmates. He was able to work through his grief and find his centre of gravity again.

The client’s mother reported back that after the therapeutic process her son was not caught up in his own world any more. The mother continued to say that she can see that Community Keepers really makes a difference in children’s lives that need help.

Lucy’s story

Lucy* came to CK for guidance regarding a romantic relationship and her future plans. This all sounded fairly simple, until she mentioned that she is in a relationship with a gang member. Her parents are divorced and she is struggling to make a decision as to who she wants to live with after her matric year.

She desperately needed help with ending the romantic relationship. Throughout therapy we worked on her self-esteem, the person she is now, who she was before and who she would like to be. We came to the conclusion that she will not reach her personal or academic goals if she continues her relationship. She mentioned that he does not support her goals for her future and expects her to be under his control. She was tired of the verbal and physical abuse and distanced herself from him, started taking a different route to school and asked him to please leave her alone.

She learned to communicate her needs to both her parents and became more relaxed with the fact that her parents love her, regardless of their disagreements and despite the fact that they had both remarried. Unfortunately, the client decided too late that she wanted to become a police woman, as the date for admission had already expired, but she was motivated and adamant to complete her matric year regardless.

Soon after the matric results were released, Lucy reached out to me to thank me for the services and the support she received at CK. She was so proud to say that she passed her matric year, that she is looking for work and that she will be applying to the police later this year.

“Thank you so much for being the one person I can talk to. Thanks for never leaving my side through the tough and ugly times. Thank you for being my rock. Thank you for being understanding. Thank you for being patient, kind, and friendly. Thank you for accepting me for who I was, and looking on the inside, not the outside. Most of all, thank you for loving me when it seemed like nobody cared. Thank you, Community Keepers. You know, after failing so many times in life, I have come to realize that I wouldn’t be successful if I gave up. Never give up, keep your head up, whatever challenges you face”

*All stories have been printed with permission, but names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality.