Hi, I’m Cathy. I’m a champion on the U-turn phase 3 work-readiness programme. My passion is communication and I’m part of the U-turn communication team. Every week I will be writing a blog post sharing my personal experience on this programme, to give you a window into the experience of being a champion on the U-turn programme.

As we are approaching winter, some are getting their fireplace ready by stocking up on wood and cleaning the cobwebs left by last year’s winter. For others it might be warming themselves outside around a gellieblik (a fire made in a large tin container – which also has other nicknames) while living in an old municipality or RDP house or living on the streets.

The fire that will burn in the fireplace in Bishopscourt will not lose its identity, when it burns in a gellieblik under the bridge of Cape Town CBD or backyard of a house or shack in Bonteheuwel or Langa. It will still be a fire.

I battled with my identity during my period of homelessness. I knew who I was in Jesus Christ, but still there was an inner battle. I had to remind myself that even though I was homeless, my fingerprints had never changed. That means in the midst of everything I was still Cathy. 

During my Growth Stage we focused on Identity and Purpose through the Purpose Project in the group sessions on my personal development day.  We had to create a mind-map of our identity and purpose.

For the mind-map I wrote namely my strengths, being creative, my values, my relationship with God and being joyful and much more. From my strength “cloud” I wrote that I have good administrative skills. I wrote the first two strengths according to the Gallup StrengthsFinder, which is context and developer. I love to know the background story, to understand a person or an organisation. I branched out as good with operations, which flows into my love to create systems that help with operations. At my previous work I created templates to help with the workflow. I have a love for community development. From the strength “cloud”, I also branched out that I am a good listener. I also wrote that I am a luminary and a manager, based on Brett Johnson’s L.E.M.O.N. leadership traits. According to the traits  luminary lives in a world of ideas and always asks the question why. If you have walked a journey with me, you would discover that I love to ask the question why. A manager is somebody who lives in the world of systems and asks the question how. Being joyful might seem odd as an identity. But I have always been somebody that could see the brighter things in life. I might emotionally be breaking inside from the circumstances that I might be facing, but the next minute I will be laughing behind my waterfalls of tears for something funny that I have just noticed.

The second week of the Purpose Project we had to create a “my passion” mind-map. A few of the questions we had to answer were: “what are my dreams?”, “what are my passions?”, “what did I really enjoyed when I was younger?”……”what is your calling?”

One of my dreams I have shared on a few blogs is to go into the media industry. While at the Stellenbosch COVID-19 temporary shelter for the homeless, I wrote proposals to the national government and corporations regarding magazines that would have been distributed to the youth. On the eve of my assessment with U-turn, I launched a prototype of the magazine for corporates and potential funders.

From the question, what is your passion, I wrote that it is creative writing and empowering people.

I wrote that I loved to read when I was younger, although it has not changed. As a toddler before I could read or write, I “read” the books my mum would buy at our favourite second hand bookstore. I made sure that I would ask her for books, while she was browsing for her own literature . My favourite books as a toddler were the Mr. Men and Little Miss series, Richards Scarry’s books, Noddy and many more. I believe my love for books was ingrained from seeing my mum and my grandparents reading in the home. My mum used to read me bedtime stories from a magical blue book that took my mind on endless adventures.

The third week we focused on living up to our potential. We had to make three columns and write down the following, namely: where I came from, where I am at, where I am going. I wrote that I came from a loving family, that my grandparents and my mum loved me. I wrote that I was at U-turn and Loaves and Fishes shelter on the “where I am” column. On “where I am going”, I wrote that my business would be successful.

In the fourth week we had to focus on our ideal job and how to make it a reality.

While I look back on what I learned last year, I can see how it has become a reality. I am in my ideal job. My dream of being in the media industry was a little fire to my soul that fueled me to go on in the midst of homelessness.

Dreams can bring comfort in challenging times. I have grown up in a home with a fireplace. Fireplaces always remind me of the warmth and comfort. My dreams gave me comfort in my challenging times of homeless and fueled me to get out of homelessness.

A fire in the wrong environment can be dangerous. While living in the Strand, our neighbours, one cold winter’s evening placed a gellieblik in their home. It exploded causing a fire. Maybe they placed it there because they also wanted their ailing grandmother to experience the warmth of the fire. The same with dreams not nurtured and purposefully worked on, can keep a person stuck in their situation.

At Church House there is two fireplaces, maybe it is a reminder for us Champions that we can exchange the gellieblik for a fireplace. We can take that dream that we might have shared or kept hidden in our hearts and turn it into a purpose. Our purpose can change into our ideal job, while we are rebuilding our lives.

At U-turn my dream has turned into a reality where I am learning valuable skills to build a media company. Although a few years back I worked at a community magazine, my main focus was operations with a slight hand at editorial decisions. Now, I am fully learning the editorial side of writing through my writing skills being nurtured.

As my journey continues I am excited to see how God is using U-turn as a GPS  to navigate me through my purpose and calling.

Join me next week on my Exit stage Journey.