We met with Margaret, who has been with Good Shepherd Centre for more than 10 years now, to learn more about the wonderful work they do there. Margaret explained to us that together with Teresa (the program coordinator) and two “house mothers” they run the “crisis shelter where teenagers, (pregnant) women, mothers and their children as well as foreign domestic workers (maids) can rebuild their lives after violence, abuse and victimization.“
The ladies we met were very cheery and it is hard to imagine that these young women are the victims of domestic abuse, runaway unwed mothers, or women who were sold (often coming from other countries) into prostitution. Their ages can range from 17 years old to 55 and depending on the case, a woman can stay from just a few days, up to 6-8 months, and in a few instances for as long as 2-3 years.
At the moment they have a full house, so all of the 45 beds are occupied. As part of their program, the residents receive counseling, emotional & spiritual support, as well as health, hygiene & mother care skills, and they participate in social and recreational activities. They are given English lessons and English is the only language spoken inside the shelter everyday except Sunday. The girls can take singing lessons, guitar lessons, jewelry making classes, and learn to sew.
One of the ways the girls earn money (often to send home) is with their delicious cooking and baking, skills they learn at the UWC campus. They take orders and fill containers for delivery with their homemade savory curry puffs and other delightful foods. All these activities are educational as well as therapeutic. Their minds are focused on positive things and they have less time to dwell on the past.
We received a tour of the facilities, seeing that there are about 4 beds to each bedroom and each bedroom has its own bathroom. The ladies have precious few personal items because when you run for safety – basically you just run.
We are treated to a fantastic home-made lunch of chicken and kailan with crab sticks and rice, followed by orange slices and chilled water chestnuts for desert. The highlight of our visit was that the girls preformed singing and dancing routines for us. For a while the room was filled with laughter, clapping, music and pure happiness. The secret here we found out is that the Good Shepherd Center “offers a home-like and safe environment where the women and children can learn to live responsibly and independently” as they get ready to transition back into the world outside.