Breaking walls and barriers

By Chantel Kennedy, Foundation for Community Work, South Africa, 2017 – 2018 Diploma Course

I am Chantel Kennedy, a 25 year old coloured lesbian woman who lives in Klapmuts, just outside Stellenbosch, in South Africa. I am a Community Development Worker working as an Education Development Practitioner for Foundation for Community Work (FCW) under the Family in Focus Klapmuts programme. Our aim is to enable parents to educate their children. We believe that education starts at home. We work with a total of 35 families and see each family once a week four times a month.

I think it was at a personal level that TFT had the greatest influence on me. I was always stubborn and had heavy trust issues. I couldn’t open myself to others and was used to building walls to protect myself from getting hurt or used. The ‘Truth Mandala’ on the Gender reconciliation week, helped me to break down each brick and I now use it as a tool whenever we as a family have unresolved issues. It is challenging to keep a positive mindset and really listen when other people speak but the tools of ‘Deep listening ‘ and ‘Reflection’ is really helpful. I have to keep reminding myself to put myself in the other person’s shoes.

Since TFT I’ve learned that self appreciation is very important as well as self awareness. I now have the confidence and courage to make use of my talent, which is poetry, and have accomplished many great things. One of my poems was published in a book by Fons van der Velden from the Netherlands ‘Towards a fair and just economy: Social business as a transformational approach’, and another broadcasted on our community radio. I have also been able to share it on different platforms.

My involvement with my community has drastically improved. I’m currently busy with youth projects in Klapmuts as well as Wolseley. These projects involve single-parent children. We use dance and drama as a tool of education. We speak of different social topics that are relevant to their environment such as teenage pregnancies and drug and alcohol abuse. I am also involved with E’bosch – an NGO that works in 10 small towns in the Winelands District. We empower young people to use their different skills such as painting, and creating art from used materials and we sell it at our local markets in these different areas. Our programs helps to keep kids off the streets and provide them with a platform to express themselves. This is important for their growth. Young people are impressionable and it is easy for them to be misled and used. We try to prevent this and offer them a safe space.

In June 2019 I was approached by the Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund to help with facilitation at a youth camp. The camp was around several issues that teenagers between the age of 14 and 18 may encounter. I also wrote a song called Let’s be Hero’s and it is now used as a theme song for their X-sê campaign against Gender-based Violence. (X-sê (Ek sê) is an Afrikaans expression. Directly translated it means “I say”)

Overall TFT has influenced me to make my mark. To be the change that I want to see, I need to start small and at the root.

I find it very difficult to implement or use some of the tools I have gained from my TFT experience because our boss is not open to new things and has poor people skills. It is also challenging to be the youngest employee so no one really gives you a chance to prove your worth and your abilities. I have however started to organise a small support group of just coming together and sharing.

Because we work with different families in different situations, we need to work through some of the emotions that we carry.

To sum up, TFT has had a great influence on my personal life and therefore my involvement with my family has improved. My involvement with my community has been the biggest improvement since TFT because I opened myself for new possibilities and challenges. To apply TFT tools and methods in my workplace is still a bit challenging but there is always room for change.