Jozini is a small town in one of the hottest, most impoverished regions of KwaZulu Natal. It was here that a baby girl named Hope was born to a large Christian family.
One of seven brothers and sisters, Hope was the firstborn. “We grew up in the church and I believe this helped me always know what was right and wrong. All my life I knew God was with me,” said Hope.
Growing up Hope felt very loved by her dad but was badly treated by her mother. “She always made me feel that the other children were good and I was not. She made me feel like I was nothing,” explained Hope.
When Hope fell pregnant out of wedlock, her mother was furious. “My mother was very ashamed and treated me even worse than before,” said Hope. “My boyfriend left me and I had to take care of my baby alone”.
Hope met a woman who encouraged her to go to Durban where she said there was lots of work. There Hope found a job in a factory. She met a pastor who said he loved her and would look after her. She felt life was beginning to look hopeful.
Although he claimed to be a man of God, the pastor made Hope pregnant and then abandoned her. Now without a job, she was living with her two children in a township outside Durban. A friend, who seemed to have a lot of money, paid her a visit. “She said she was working in a hotel and could get me a job,” said Hope.
When they got into the city, Hope’s friend took her to the notorious Point Road, the heart of Durban’s red light district. “She told me to sit on the side of the street and wait,” recalled Hope. “After a short time she came back with money. Then a man came and she told me to go with him. I did so and we had sex around the corner. When I came back, she paid me.”
That was the one and only time Hope slept with a man for money.
That night, she met a group of volunteers on the street who offered to help her. “They said it would be possible to receive free skills training. My friend told me it was nonsense but I had been brought up in a Christian home and I knew this was God’s way of helping me. I knew these were good people,” said Hope.
The volunteers told Hope to come back to the same place the following day. When she did, she was met by a woman who took Hope to their offices. There, once a week for three months, she was trained in sewing, beading and hairdressing. Hope was helped with transport and basic food costs for herself and her children and, after a while, she began to make and sell bags and beaded jewellery and got part-time jobs to bring in extra money.
Once ready, Hope was referred to The Domino Foundation – Red Light program for long-term assistance in their restoration programme. “Red Light changed my life in so many ways,” said Hope. “They helped me financially and gave me clothes for my children. They taught crocheting, jewellery-making, sewing and knitting. They have counselled me and encouraged me and they helped me in my relationship with God.”
Since then, Hope has done piecework jobs for small jewellery shops and large chain stores who are in partnership with The Domino Foundation Red Light Programme. She was donated a sewing machine and overlocker and loves working with her hands. After many months of journeying together Hope was doing beadwork part-time and taking English classes. When her English course is finished she plans to complete high school.
“Life is not easy but I now know that, even when we feel lost, God always sees us and cares for us,” said Hope with a smile.
Red Light is excited to announce that, after four years of walking shoulder to shoulder with Hope, she has been employed full-time and was released from the programme in July 2016. She wept on the couch as we celebrated her ‘release’ from the programme and her words will never leave us: “God is so good, He never left me all this time… not once. So many things He has done for me. Wow… I am so happy all I can do is cry!”