Pride Shelter Trust is a LGBTIQ-focused organization based in the Oranjezicht district of Cape Town that provides emergency housing to LGBTIQ persons who have recently undergone some form of crisis. Victor (PASSOP’s LGBTI program director) has frequently asked me to contact Pride when a refugee or client in need comes to PASSOP; Pride has proven incredibly collaborative in these moments, and some former residents of Pride have even come to work with PASSOP’s LGBTI program.
Working and collaborating with Guy Hamilton, the Community Mental Health Coordinator at Pride Shelter, has been a great joy and experience. He is very professional, prompt, and incredibly dedicated. I met Guy during my second week in Cape Town during a community dialogue event in Gugulethu, featuring conversations and forums with the country’s Minister of Social Development, Ms. Bathabile Dlamini. Another intern, Matthew, discussed Pride Shelter’s work with Guy, and eventually the two of them thought of a joint project for Pride and PASSOP. This led to Matt and I offering to volunteer and host a series of workshops for Pride Shelter’s residents between June and July.
After a subsequent meeting between the three of us, Matt and I developed curriculums to help Pride’s residents with the immediate issues they face. Matt has run workshops for refugees before, and used that expertise to create practice scenarios and dialogues. These dialogues focused on knowing and negotiating rights related to employment contracts, housing, and rental agreements. I missed Matt’s workshop, unfortunately, due to traveler’s illness that left me horizontal for three days.
I sought to build on his workshops with leadership skill development and capacity building: It is not necessarily easy to communicate one’s interests to a prospective employer or landlord, let alone protect those interests and ensure fairness of contract during negotiations (even for persons who speak the same language and come from the same country as the prospective employer or landlord). Confidence-building and knowledge-of-self exercises help to develop one’s awareness of strengths, weaknesses, and other self-knowledge, and thereby help to reform communication in a way that clearly, precisely, and persuasively demonstrates self-awareness of, for example, reasons why one is apt for a job position, or reasons why one deserves fairness and respect from the beginning to the end of a professional relationship.
I arrived just on time for the 10AM workshop this past Saturday, and sat down in an airy, natural-light-filled, second-floor living room with five of Pride’s residents. After introductions, I asked each resident to share a “success” from their week, no matter how large or how small (an exercise I learned from Professors Hendrickson and Heymann and W&M Law School’s Leadership Institute). The responses ranged from securing a job, to securing a job interview, to waking up on time on a particular day; I could feel a bit of the tension in the room release as everyone realized she was on her own path, at her own pace. We discussed strengths such as kindness, patience, positivity, and directness. We shared weaknesses; and when we finally reached self-esteem (one resident was brave enough to comment on her low self-esteem), I saw the residents change from focusing on themselves to building one another up, recalling one another’s strengths, and sharing personal confidence-building strategies and other suggestions.
The workshop ended with smiles and hopes to come together again for another workshop, or for socializing in a less formal setting. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to run another workshop, and am forever thankful for places that provide a temporary home and safe space for LGBTIQ persons.