Quelani had to leave her family behind in Zimbabwe, but found herself a family in South Africa, which she credits the Women’s Platform for.
Leaving home and losing family support
Zimbabwe was not in a good way after the elections in 2008; attempts at a coalition government were not successful and atrocities were committed with impunity against opposition supporters. The economy was in dire straits and there were severe food shortages. In December 2009, Quelani and her husband made the difficult decision to leave their family behind and come to South Africa.
“When I first arrived in Cape Town, I fell into a depression because of the change of environment, health issues and missing my family. I went from having a big family to just my husband, it was something that I didn’t take very well. I am a family person.” Language barriers made integration difficult. “It was not very easy to meet people. When you are not South African and are in another land where you don’t speak the same language; understanding each other is very difficult.”
“When I dropped out [of studies] in Zimbabwe, I was so hurt. I couldn’t explain it and I couldn’t talk about it. I was seeing people being successful because they were going to school. Education is the key, but I couldn’t go to school."
While still in Zimbabwe, Quelani was studying Travel and Tourism. She was forced to drop out because of the economy. “When I dropped out [of studies] in Zimbabwe, I was so hurt. I couldn’t explain it and I couldn’t talk about it. I was seeing people being successful because they were going to school. Education is the key, but I couldn’t go to school. When I came here to South Africa, I thought it was going to be easy for me to go to college or university, but it was the opposite.” She started working for a guesthouse in Cape Town, trying to keep close to what she loved to do, but the job itself was not for her. This would eventually lead her to Scalabrini.
Speaking the same language
Quelani found out about Scalabrini at church. She recalls that, walking into the Scalabrini offices, she gained a kind of family. “When I first walked in here I felt at home, I felt like I belonged here. We all spoke the same language, the language of love. We are all so united …The bitterness that I had and missing home, it started to disappear”
After eight years of not being able to study, it was a pivotal moment when Quelani discovered she could continue learning and doing hospitality at Scalabrini. “I was trying to go to school…finally I could go and on top of that, they saw some leadership in me, that I can teach the other ladies. That was so powerful.” Another significant moment for Quelani was realising that she can be helpful in her own community in Cape Town – despite not being South African.
Purpose and direction
“The biggest help from Scalabrini and Women’s Platform is knowing myself better and doing what I love. I love people. Knowing myself better was so helpful from my education side and my personal life too. There are many things that I am now putting into practise after Personal Development.”
“Back in Zimbabwe, I am a village girl. I thought I couldn’t do anything, life was always about looking up to men and they must do everything for us, but after I came here things changed. I see that women can do anything, even the things that men do. I can see where I am going.”
Quelani dreams of having her own catering company in the future. She would also like to help teach and empower the women in her own community, not just at Scalabrini. “Most people from Atlantis find it difficult to reach Scalabrini, so I wish to have some days when I can teach women, so I can be empowering other women like me and show them that there are better things that they can do, other than staying at home.” Scalabrini has helped Quelani in regards with her self-esteem too. “Back in Zimbabwe, I am a village girl. I thought I couldn’t do anything, life was always about looking up to men and they must do everything for us, but after I came here things changed. I see that women can do anything, even the things that men do. I can see where I am going.”