Written by Lindsay Krause
Since its launch in 2016, the Project Brave Foundation has transformed the lives of 15 mothers and 30 children who found themselves living on the streets of Johannesburg. By running an empowering skills development programme, Project Brave aims to restore hope and dignity to women.
Ker & Downey® Africa has joined the fight to empower women by naming Project Brave as one of our key Legacy Partners and offering clients the opportunity to make a donation towards the foundation when they travel with us. The donation plays a crucial role in funding the skills development programme and training of each mother, food and toiletry packs for the families, school fees for the children, psychological and medical support as well as shelter for the duration of the programme. We met with Sacha Proctor, one of the founders of the Project Brave Foundation, at their office in Johannesburg to find out more about how they are empowering women and taking them through a journey of change.
Sacha. P : As a student studying psychology, I was assigned a project to conceptualize a community project which had to tackle a social issue – I chose female beggars. As time went on, I realized the severity of the problem in South Africa and after becoming a mother myself, I felt my heart calling out to these women and children begging on the streets of Johannesburg. This was a key motivator to transform a university project into a fully-fledged organization in 2016.
Sacha. P : Poverty in South Africa is ever-present and it’s challenging to assess what the figures are when it comes to how many women and children find themselves homeless. In Johannesburg, there are around 2600 traffic lights and 60% of those are occupied by female beggars.
Sacha. P: Project Brave was founded in 2016 by myself, Candice Street and Sisonke Petse. The programme began by meeting women in a nearby McDonalds, hearing their stories and assessing how we could empower them going forward. We had great expectations of helping one family each month, however many of the women we met had endured incomprehensible trauma and we realized that we needed to slow the process down. The foundation did not exist to churn out numbers, but rather take each family through a journey of change. Being a small team and reliant on funding, we were able to successfully assist one family every six months.
Since then, the foundation has grown and we have many incredible people volunteering their time to make it a success, including occupational and speech therapists. We have formed collaborations with other foundations like The River Foundation who have given us a space to facilitate counselling sessions and some of our training programmes.
With the funding we have received, lessons we have learnt along the way and volunteers that are involved, we are now able to take on 3 families every 3 months.
Sacha. P : Project Brave operates as a 4 step programme.
1. Rescue: We have strict criteria when selecting women to enter the programme. It is vital that each woman shows the willingness to change their situation. The first responsibility mothers are given is to find a creche for their children as well as safe accommodation which we then assess and provide funding for during the course of the programme. We try to empower them as much as possible through these responsibilities – giving them a hand up and not a hand out.
2. Support: As the woman and children enter the programme they receive emotional and physical support. Children are also assessed to see if there are any developmental delays. Project Brave provides each family with food and sanitary packs throughout the programme to ensure that the mother can focus on bettering her family’s future.
3. Empower: It is vital that we empower each woman by guiding them through a process of change. Depending on their level of education, as well as their interests, we send each woman on a skills development programme, bettering their chances of finding formal employment or starting their own business. Skills consist of sewing, baking, cooking, financial literacy, computer skills and admin, to name a few. We also support the women by teaching them invaluable life skills such as nutrition, how to budget, sex education and how to parent.
4. Reintegration: We try our utmost to prepare the women for the working world in the hopes that they will be able to find formal employment. We guide them on how to apply for jobs and internships and teach them CV writing skills.
Sacha. P : Empowerment looks different to each woman.
We found Patricia working at a traffic light in Rivonia. Her husband had been the breadwinner of the family and he sadly passed away. In desperate times, Patricia turned to begging. We sent her on a number of programmes from financial literacy to baking. She now owns a spaza shop in Alexandra and is able to support her family.
Stella completed high school while begging with her mother on weekends. She was interested in working with kids so we sent her on a teaching assistant course. She thereafter worked at a nursery school for a year.
Rose also completed high school while begging on the streets with her mother. Once she entered the programme she went on to do an admin course through Damelin. She is building up work experience and her child is at school and thriving.
Sacha.P : As funding increases we hope that Project Brave will become more self-sufficient and make an invaluable difference to more families in the area. To fund a family over a 3 month period is an estimate of $1700. This covers shelter, education for the children, clothing, food, sanitary kits as well as the skills programme for the mother.
If you are interested in supporting the Project Brave Foundation in their quest to empower women in South Africa, donate here or get in touch with us to find out how you can travel with a purpose with Ker & Downey® Africa.