My Story so far…

Growing up as little girl I always heard people say that everyone is born with a fate, a destiny that waits for us at the end of the tunnel and only I can get myself to that place. I always questioned that statement because of the way my life turned out to be for me. I understand that life is not always milk and honey or sunshine and rainbows but my life was so agonizing to a point where I even struggled to recall the memories of the taste of milk that I have once tasted and enjoyed. I am Belinda, but my friends call me Linda*, a young lady who has had a life that most girls wouldn’t want to have.

I was born in Cape Town and lived in Athlone. I lived there with my father, mother, aunt, my two cousins and my uncle. My aunt played a huge role in my life; she was actually like a mother to me. On the other hand, my uncle was the total opposite. He was a drunk and he would became very abusive towards my mom and aunt once he has had one too many. The most painful part was the fact that I witnessed them being beaten and helpless until the age of ten.
“Family?”, “What is a family?” I started questioning the situation and environment that I was living under. My primary school was right opposite my house and I would witness my mom and aunt being abused from there too. They would run, try escape from my uncle’s wicked tactics. Everyday my house would be searched by police. Even community members knew our household’s business because they would gather around and just watch while police search the house. At times they would come to try stop fights at home. This situation became a normal thing to watch. A house – with no love and no family. That is how it was for all the years.

My father was an absent throughout my life. He was a drug addict. It was his life. He never supported me in any way be it financially, emotionally or physically. He took off and never called on my birthdays.
My mom on the other hand loved me so much. A smile so beautiful and a hug that would comfort every being of me and me want to stay there for the rest of my life. After she got sick she could no longer take care of me the way I am supposed to be taken care of. She couldn’t provide basic needs for me, she couldn’t brush my hair, and she became weak. Even in her weakness she was alive inside and always sang me a song of light and joy… the irony is that joy never existed at that time of my life.

People started talking, asking all sorts of questions that were a bit too heavy for someone my age.
Ten years later, my aunt sold our house; no more drugs and drug users, no more abuse. The painful memories were erased instantly but even so there was negligent. My aunt had a boyfriend and often left me and my mom alone at night. I never blamed her for not wanting to be home but she neglected us, she neglected me. The things I needed were not being provided for: no money, no toiletries, no shoes and no decent clothes and still no love. Not having a proper solid place to call home, having to move from house to house and being treated like Cinderella did not make me despair.

I am now a teenager still with no support from close family members. Even through the circumstances that I grow up in, I was always determined to make my life full of light, to finish my story with a happy ending. I wish to one day inspire others who are going though worse that I have, in my childhood, to be brave and hold on tight to hope and faith. I held on tight to my faith and hopes and I am now creating my own destiny.

O Grace Land will be my home, home of love and support and not just my shelter. A home where I will grow and mature into this person that I have always known I am and aspired to become. My hunger for success has not died despite my past but instead it grows daily. It is just inside me, growing daily and waiting now waiting to explode into something bigger and somethings more. Yes, life can be hard, tough and a bit of a challenge but it always lies with you to claim what and how you want your life to be.

– This story is written by one of the girls who hopes to be in the very first intake of O Grace Land.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the girls at O Grace Land. All main photographs are of models and not of girls at O Grace Land.