Excellence award for Community Cohesion

The Community Cohesion team that received the Excellence in Victim Empowerment Award are, at back, from left, Bronwyn Moore, Vivienne Buyeye, Andrea Turner and Angie Nyamunetsa. In front are Shirley Swingler, Mikaeel Domingo and Pumla Madikizela.

Hout Bay-based Non-Profit Company (NPC) Community Cohesion was recognised by the national Department of Social Development in Johannesburg earlier this month.

The organisation, which provides therapeutic sessions and assistance to people who have been victims of violence or crime, received the Excellence in Victim Empowerment Award on Friday March 2.

“It’s brilliant to have been acknowledged as the top NGO for direct services to victims of violence and crime in our province,” said Community Cohesion director Bronwyn Moore.

“It was good to meet with colleagues from the rest of the country at the gala function is Johannesburg, and hear their challenges and share approaches we all have towards real victim empowerment.

“The thing we all know is that it is partnerships that make our work efficient and professional, and this award did not happen without these partnerships, notably the VEP (victim empowerment programme) directorate of the department of social development, and of course, the incredible team of Cohesionites who work in a very hard field, but do it, day in day out, with the clients at the forefront. It’s a privilege to work with this team of extraordinary human beings.”

The organisation’s head therapeutic social worker at the Hout Bay office, Angie Nyamunetsa, believed there was often a lack of understanding over what victim empowerment meant.

“They hear ‘social worker’ and think child removal or some such… We are therapeutic social workers who are specialists in working with victims of violence and crime.

“This means any crime, or being witness to violence, or living in a violent place, or coming from a violent country,” Ms Nyamunetsa said.

“The crime does not need to be recent. It could be something that happened many years ago. We assist the clients with the emotion still attached to the crime or act of violence and then provide emotional support or therapeutic counselling and assist with practical needs as well, like courts or protection orders or the Human Rights Commission or whatever is needed.”

At the organisation’s Masiphumelele office, head therapeutic social worker Pumla Madikizela, said: “It’s good that we are busy all the time; it means that people realise there is assistance for them to heal and move forward with their lives. It feels good to be there for our clients and really good that we have been awarded for what we do”. Ms Moore explained that primary (oneself) or secondary trauma (witnessing violence, living in a violence-prone area) all amounted to collective trauma, which, if not dealt with, resulted in physical and emotional health problems, which over time, could become chronic conditions.

“These emotional traumas then lead to behaviour change such as withdrawing from people, keeping your kids at home, not wanting them out of your sight, marital issues as fear is always present, emotional outbursts or substance abuse, for example.”

Community Cohesion also works with victims of domestic violence, helping build resilience in victims so that they might change their situation or manage it better.

The team consists of registered professionals, all bound by ethical codes of practice, be it with the Health Professionals Council or the Social Workers Council of South Africa. As such, all their work is confidential and in the interests of the client’s wishes.

“Our social workers are not the normal social workers that parents are used to. They are highly specialised and trained to work with victims of violence and crime, therefore they are called therapeutic social workers. They have no statutory powers and cannot remove children. Our entire focus is the holistic healing of a person and their immediate others,” Ms Moore said.

“Our group sessions are for resilience building around trauma and deal with personal development and growth. These sessions can be held for parents as well. In fact, we recommend them, as it teaches communication skills, anger management, boundaries and other vital aspects so that we, as people,
learn to respond, not react. I suppose you could say that all our group work is at attempt at: developing emotional stamina so that when a problem occurs we don’t react out of emotion but out of wisdom.”