Being strong for others is a task done with love and care by a woman whose heart is to be the voice for the homeless.
Venetia Orgill, 61, from Beacon Valley, also fondly known as “Ma”, works hard to keep the homeless off the streets, for them to lead a good life for themselves so that they can get back on track in society.
Her non-profit organisation, Discover your Power, focuses on addicts of drugs and alcohol, the abused and homeless people. Mothers in the community assist her with cooking for soup kitchens and any help she needs.
“In 2003 tik took hold of Mitchell’s Plain, by then I had a full-blown heroin addict in my son. I got involved with the Department of Social Development and we launched a tik task team in 2004 in Mitchell’s Plain. I was one of the founding members of the task team,” said Ms Orgill.
The tik task team later turned into the Local Drug Action Committee. They were 56 different organisations who were part of this. She attended support groups, with her own transport and she realised how other people from Mitchell’s Plain may be struggling to get to support groups. Mitchell’s Plain did not have support groups then, said Ms Orgill.
As the drug increased its stranglehold on the community, the Plainsman launched its campaign against tik on November 22 2006, which ran through 2007 and 2008. As part of the campaign readers shared information and advice and the paper published stories of reformed addicts and listed meeting dates and contact details of support groups every week.
Ms Orgill said after going to her priest she came home and reflected on why and how she would help her late son Troy Kote. He started going to church with his mother as well as support groups. Her son asked her to attend church with him one day, and she went. “The very child that was an addict and who I was angry at God for, brought me back to God. For that I am very grateful.”
She said she got together with the 56 organisations, realising that Mitchell’s Plain doesn’t have a support group and something needed to be done. The need was immediate. She approached the Beaconvale Community Care Centre for the Frail and Aged in Beacon Valley to use it every Thursday evening. It went well for two years, growing from four people to hundreds walking through the door all the time.
She started a support group in Bonteheuwel as well. The support groups started fading said Ms Orgill as people started finding more help for their children through other organisations. She got into motivational speaking too.
In 2014 on a Sunday night she was helping a friend look for her missing son, Danny. Ms Orgill, a florist by profession, delivered flowers in town and took a walk that night, through the Company’s Garden.
“We found him. We asked him what do you miss most when you’re out on the streets, Mama’s food he said.” Ms Orgill brought a pot of soup and pasta after finding Danny, feeding 15 homeless people. Today, Danny has been clean for three years and since March 2014, Discover your Power feed 250 people every Thursday.
With the help of the organisation 12 people are clean of drugs since they have been at the Winter Restoration Camp Edgar 2018, with jobs as well as some starting their own businesses in Cape Town.
She works with adults, specifically men. “They are also human, sometimes it’s harder for them to stand up and keep going,” said Ms Orgill. “People tend to think that giving your time and using it constructively, needs to help you. I don’t work with a programme. What programme can I put a broken person through? This is where I found myself. When you’re broken, it’s difficult to focus constructively, not allowing people to give you time, to glue yourself together.”
Chantel Sampson, 36, originally from Bishop Lavis, lives with Ms Orgill when she is working. Ms Orgill mentored her and became like a mother to her after she attended the camp, she said.
In 2016 Chantel was homeless, living on the streets. She attended a winter programme camp for people like her, she said. She relapsed and went back to the programme again.
“For six months, I have been clean of drugs and anything intoxicating my body. When I was on drugs, I made bad choices and joined the wrong crowd,” Chantel said.
She has made contact with her children after not being able to see them and be with them. “Before, I did not speak to them as much but I love them so much and I am so grateful I get to see my children now,’ said Chantel.
Chantel started working at a supermarket chain’s distribution centre. “I was so excited when I came home from work, for the first time I opened my own bank account and own my own bank card. Sometimes people take these little things for granted, but not me. Ma has really saved my life and for that I am forever grateful. I live for every day, I don’t care about anything else,” said Chantel.
Ms Orgill said her charges know that her place is a place they can come back to, they have built a relationship with each other that is very strong. She not only feeds people but she gets to know who they are first, treating them like a normal person with love and care.
“Love what you do in your life, make sure you survive and give God all the praise while you’re at it,” said Ms Orgill.