Memory Work

“My parents built our home over 25 years ago, we all live here. After they died we struggled to survive and sometimes there was not enough food for the children to eat or proper clothes for them to wear.”

Mrs Khemisa was visited by a fieldworker from Thandanani Children’s Foundation. At the time she was living with her sister and 4 children as the younger sister had died, leaving her child behind. She was looking after her nephew, Mtentwa. The fieldworker discussed joining a support group where Mrs Khemisa would meet others like herself, who were also struggling to support their families. She describes how it was good to share with others and to learn that she was not alone. At the support group they discussed Memory Work, which is a technique used to assist families in dealing with the passing of loved ones.

Mrs Khemisa has always wanted to tell Mtentwa that she was not his real mother but did not know how to approach the situation and did not want to upset him as he had always believed that she was his mother. The family all sat down together and started a memory box, they collected things that reminded them of their lost family members, and they shared stories and remembered the good times. They even started putting together a family tree and that is when Mrs Khemisa realised that she had to tell Mtentwa the truth. He was confused at first but as she explained further he started to understand and accept it.

“I felt free”, said Mrs Khemisa. “Life has never been easy but Thandanani has made it much better.”

As part of our Family Strengthening Program, we facilitate memory work with families and provide family members with access to support groups and life skill programs. These groups provide children and caregivers with a safe and supportive environment in which to process their experiences and build resilience.