WHAT WE DO
WHAT WE DO
By Alistair Westcott
Abigail Malinga’s story is one of survival against all odds. Softly this single mother of 4 recalls the events that make up her life. Although she constantly has to wipe away the tears, her eyes reveal an inner peace and her smile radiates a heartfelt joy.
Born into a large, poor family in Zimbabwe in 1983 Abigail finds it difficult to recall anything but destruction and abuse during her childhood with the resultant deep-rooted, daily heartache and tears. A life without love cultivates a hard heart and a smile-less face. “At an early age I lost the ability to feel and to care; my laughter and smile were viciously stolen from me.”
The birth of a first baby should be the most joyous occasion of a young woman’s life but for Abigail this was not so. Abuse led to pregnancy at the age of 15 and although she named her twin daughters Privilege and Perfect her life now became a daily struggle to cope and to survive. As a vendor buying and selling clothes on the streets Abigail tried to make a living. Her miserable existence was exacerbated when her parents and family evicted her and she and her babies ended up living on the streets and sleeping in abandoned buildings.
One of the twins did not survive the hardship of street-life and this left Abigail devastated. At an age where most girls should still be enjoying their teenage years Abigail was trying to cope with the death of one of her two children while struggling to take care of the other. Desperate and alone the only option she had was to accompany her sister to South Africa where they hoped to find the life they were dreaming of.
“I had nothing!
I was nothing!
Life robbed me
Years of unimaginable trials and tribulations followed. Abigail found herself in a maze of hopelessness moving from one squatter camp to another and from one forced relationship to another; from the overpopulated streets of Marabastad to Lusaka in Mamelodi and on to Thembisa and Oakmore. She tried her best to sell anything from clothing to fruit and vegetables just to survive.
In her search for love and acceptance as well as a pressing need for financial security, a few disastrous, loveless and abusive relationships followed and the birth of two more girls Sandile and Selena. Abigail’s plight had now become totally desperate and even though she managed to secure employment as a domestic worker she was finding life extremely difficult trying to survive as a single parent.
“The disease” came without warning but the force with which it hit her physically was far worse than anyone could imagine. The cold, clinical confirmation; “You are HIV positive” shattered her emotionally causing far more damage than the pain and the suffering. Her life became a living hell.
A body on the pavement. No pulse. The frail frame of “the deceased” Abigail Malinga was covered as though this was the end. What she experienced there on the pavement that day Abigail describes as a dream. She says; “In my dream I was walking through a desert. It was tough and I felt like I could not go on. Suddenly I was on beautiful green grass and there was a man with a long white gown. I could not see his face but I heard his voice and he asked me which way I want to go…back towards the desert or forward to the green pastures ahead?”
The next few months were not easy, but Abigail refused to lose hope. By a strange confluence of circumstances, a couple living in the affluent suburb of Waterkloof in Pretoria became involved in her life. Jacques and Lurè actually cared about her and not only made sure that she and her children were taken care of but also took them to church. For the first time in her life Abigail was confronted with the reality of a God she had only heard about.
The decision that Jacques and his wife made to take Abigail to POPUP (People Upliftment Programme) proved to be a life changing experience. She experienced another “first” in her life – she enrolled as a learner to study at the POPUP Training and Development Centre. It was during the Life Skills Programme that Abigail’s relationship with God was given a real boost. She became aware of the fact that she was a special person with specific gifts and talents and that her life has a purpose. She gained self-confidence and learnt how to forgive as she dealt with her past. Although her health had not yet improved she experienced an emotional and spiritual transformation. “I got my smile back!” she exclaims and the smile is not just on her face!
Sponsored and supported by Jacques and Lurè, Abigail devoted herself to her studies at POPUP. She completed the Adult Education & Training Programme and followed on with the Sewing Skills Programme. She excelled! Her value as a person with God-given talents added real meaning to every day. Wilma Lindecke (Skills Manager) and Agnes de Klerk (Sewing Facilitator & Enterprise Village Manager), two staff members at POPUP, played a vital role in the miracle that was taking place as Abigail moved from being “nothing” to being “somebody”.
Abigail and her children live in their flat in Sunnyside. Since 2013 she has been in the employ of Bespoke Interiors in Lynwood, Thabathswane Creations in the Military School and at MEMS Embroidery. She has gained invaluable experience as a seamstress and embroidery machine operator. Currently she is working at POPUP, teaching and helping the learners and sharing her expertise.
Abigail is a very active member of the Impact Word Church in Nelmapius (Extension 7) next to Mamelodi and has been the treasurer of the church for the past 4 years. She is also involved in community upliftment work and says, “It blesses me when I can help and pray for others. Sharing my past with people brings hope and that gives me great joy and fulfilment”
Salvokop Centre (Head Office)
Phone: +27 12-003-2008
Phone: +27 81-283-4400
“I was always telling myself that I was living ok even though it was not true. But now I feel like a new person. The Foundation for Life programme helped me with so much knowledge, and it opened my mind and eyes that I now think I was totally blind in the past. My life is totally not the same as when I first came here. Everyone must know and experience what I have come to experience and know. Thanks for the knowledge and truth and please it must never end, because I wish to see my brothers and sisters around the world feeling the way I do.”
“I lived a life of sin every day of my life. I drank heavily, smoked dagga and had sex almost every day. I was filled with anger and hated myself, because I never knew my biological father. Nothing mattered to me anymore and I felt that life owed me. During this programme I experienced a lot of love and I managed to change my attitude towards others. I learned that in life it’s the little things that count. I learned to work with a different cultures. I also learned to forgive other people regardless of what they done to me. I also learned that God is always there for us and we just need to find Him, for we are His children and He is our spiritual Father. For me, it meant that I should go out there and touch as many people’s lives as possible in life. I am now revived with everything I have learned here.”
“I lived my life without direction. I was with friends who had a bad influence on me and we smoked weed and drank alcohol. We used drugs to keep us awake all night. I didn’t know anything about God. I was in the dark and never attended church. This programme really changed my life. I feel like I found a family that loves me. I was open to talk to people that I met during this period of time. Now I know myself and what I want for the future. I know my purpose in life and I will make use of all the information and put it into practice. I will make the choices that determines who I want to be in my future. I wish I’ve been here a long time ago, but I still thank God for the gifts that I got from this programme, for it really changed my life and my future.”
“Growing up as a child was difficult for me, as both my parents were alcoholics, and my dad would beat up my mother and sometimes kick us out. POPUP has taught me about God’s unconditional love and approval, as He alone has my best interest at heart. He alone is able to fill any void and He alone goes through everything I go through with me. I am able, for my God will strengthen me. I have stopped feeling that sex is a part of a relationship, because now I know that it is a part of marriage. I will not let anyone make me think I am worthless. I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me. My family has actually started praying with me daily.”
“I was a young man who thought that no one cared about me, not my family, no one. I started seeking their attention by drinking, sleeping around, and blaming everyone for my mistakes. I thought that the world owed me, but also felt that it was better without me, so I tried running away and committing suicide. During this programme, I learnt to be myself and to understand my purpose. I am not just someone who came to be a nobody, but to be in God’s likeness. I have a daughter whom I couldn’t take care of and I have not been there for her. After this programme I learnt that I need to be responsible and take care of my child. I must be a father who will love and protect his wife and kids. Everything that happened in my life had a purpose and it was a way to help me, strengthen me and change me to become a better man. I feel enlightened after this programme, because of the truth I have received and the knowledge I was given. I have decided to be a better man who fears God and will follow God’s ways, a man who will lead his family and friends to the truth.”