Creators of Peace South Africa focuses on building our nation by creating a foundation for growth through healing hurts and growing trust as an outcome of our story sharing. The aim is to help individuals see their part in rebuilding the broken structures of our country, starting with change in ourselves, our communities and then our country. Between April and June 2018, Creators of Peace Circles were run each week and the team were able to reach 133 ladies and 18 men in the most disadvantaged communities in five regions across Johannesburg. Cleo Mohlaodi, Lucel Snyers and Portia Mosia facilitated the 12 Peace Circles.
This exciting journey of collaboration with the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) started in 2014, when we piloted Peace Circles with the Woman and Elderly Social Development Unit, as they were searching for an NGO to assist in their ‘Work Readiness Programme’ to capacitate inner healing. Thereafter, we spent a year applying to be on the CoJ’s database and two years applying to be funded by the CoJ, to be able to sustain the programme. Finally, we got the grant approval in March 2018.The collaboration has been an experience of challenges and confirmation of the importance of, and need for, Creators of Peace work in South Africa.
Opening the graduation and certificate presentation held on 6 July at the Jo’burg Theatre, Programme Director Carina van Zyl spoke of the aims of the programme as being to ‘raise consciousness of your own identity, empowering women to stand up for themselves and find inner healing, respect and pride.’ She pointed out that 33% of participants had found direction and a way forward since the programme started, including some finding employment or starting their own NGOs. This is an incredible turn around.
Two motivational speakers were Nthabiseng Montsho from Soul Inspiration and Cleo Mohlaodi from Initiatives of Change.
Nthabiseng shared her own experience of abuse within a marriage relationship and how eventually she had the courage to speak out. This led her to begin Soul Inspiration, from a deep motivation to work with and help young women in similar situations. Nthabiseng passionately expressed: ‘You are not defined by your troubles. Say with me, “I forgive the person who has abused me. Today I let go. I choose to forgive. There is power in forgiveness. Today I take my power back. I was born to make a difference.”’
‘As from today we are no longer perpetrators of conflict but peace builders,’ Cleo told the graduation. ‘The “I can do it” attitude was awesome to see in the Peace Circles. We gained the emotional strength to become the best we can be. Together we shared tears, humour, and a great platform of a safe space to exchange these personal stories.’
‘To the 133 women and 18 men who were brave enough to take part in the circles, please continue the healing journey. To the City of Johannesburg, we have only scratched the surface. How can we do more?’
Guest speaker Dr Mpho Phalatse stated her commitment to engage with the CoJ Economics Department to support graduates of the programme. 'You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated,' she quoted from Maya Angelou.
We are intending, out of the 151 people who have been through the programme, to train facilitators who will continue with us as we reach the communities. We will continue working with City of Johannesburg. This raises a need for funding to be able to give stipends to facilitators, fund further training and development, support programme participants in the change they are embracing, and extend our work to other parts of the CoJ - to all races, classes and genders.
Some comments from Peace Circles participants:
‘I learned a lot about introspection.’
‘It is the first time I am in a space that I can show how I feel, as hard as it is. It is also fulfilling.’
‘Many thanks to Creators of Peace for the opportunity to help us deal with our deepest emotions’