[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]If you had visited the U-turn head office around lunch time on December 14, you would have heard music pumping through air thick with the smell of hair spray and flat irons, and seen ladies strutting an array of beautifully coloured evening dresses while cell phone cameras clicked…

It was the day of our end-of-year Graduation ceremony for our Life Change champions, who were getting ready with mounting excitement for one of the most stylish year end function that we’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy at U-turn.

All this was possible thanks to the Protea Hotel by Marriott® Mowbray kindly offering to host us – they donated the venue and their staff’s time to cook and serve our champs in style. Our deep thanks to Marchel, Lindsay and the entire Protea Hotel Mowbray team who made the evening so memorable.[/vc_column_text][vc_gallery type=”image_grid” images=”690,697,695,696,691,692,694″ onclick=”img_link_large” custom_links_target=”_blank” css_animation=”none”][vc_column_text]Close your eyes and imagine: stylish evening dress, authentic Cape Dutch interior, and fine dining mingled with joyful laughter. Our champs were transport to the beautiful venue thanks to the kind sponsorship of Vodacom South Africa.

With all our previous year-end events held in church halls, nobody expected to be taken to a hotel, or a hotel as magnificent as the Protea Hotel Mowbray. As we arrived, we were greeted by friendly hotel staff and delicious hors d’oeuvres.

And then, of course, the photo taking began. The stately interior of the hotel had never seen in one evening quite so many people posing and clicking away in its hundreds of years of existence!

When we finally managed to get everyone seated, our host and General Manager of Protea Hotel Mowbray, Marchel Anthony, welcomed us and then followed the celebrations of our champions’ accomplishments and the tireless effort of our 2 faithful volunteers. We also said a sad goodbye to one of the Occupational Therapists who is retiring from U-turn.

With the formalities out of the way, we lost ourselves in a game of “Bad Santa”: participants draw a number and get to choose from the pile of wrapped presents… or a better present chosen by a participant before them. The game had our champions in stitches, all well as the hotel staff that watched the game unfold.

We then tucked into an exquisite main course and dessert, prepared by the Protea Hotel by Marriott® Mowbray’s chef and her team. For days afterwards, our champions were talking about the food and the friendly service of the hotel staff.

The highlight of the evening was watching our champions dance the night away, without a drop of alcohol or illegal substances in their system. For many, this was their first experience of a “sober party”. We saw just about every genre of dance -from ballroom, from sokkie to waltz, and on to breakdance. And seeing our beloved Aunty Jane, tearing up the dance floor was both surprising and a treat.

With the sponsorship of Vodacom South Africa, we were able to dance late into the night, and then safely see every one of our champions home to their front door. Without the sponsored transport, the party would have ended in time for our champions to catch public transport at a safe hour. So our deep thanks to Vodacom for their ongoing support!

We carry wonderful memories of the evening that carries us through tough days. We are deeply grateful to everyone who support U-turn and our Life Change champions for making not only our Graduation Ceremony possible, but the very programme that is creating a sustainable pathway out of homeless possible.

Thank you. And wishing you all a very Happy New Year. May 2018 be filled with much learning, growth and laughter![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]