From being a drunk on the street to a new future

SOUL Malatjie, social worker for MES Kempton Park, helped Isabella Zaaiman a lot though her journey at GROW.

“I saw Jesus looking at me and smiling through two flashes of lightning and I haven’t touched a drink since that night.”

Those were the emotional words of recovering alcoholic Isabella Zaaiman (47) after she turned around her life for the better with the help of MES Kempton Park in September last year.

She was in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic man for five years, lost the right to see her son (10) and daughter (27) and ended up on the streets of Kempton Park without anything, Isabella told EXPRESS.

“I lived in Port Elizabeth with my ex-boyfriend for five years before I came back to Kempton Park because my parents and my sister live in Birchleigh. I was married before I met my ex-boyfriend and grew up travelling a lot as a child because my father worked at various power stations across the country,” she said.

“In the beginning it was all moonshine and roses with him and I. He was a foreman for a contractor in PE and we would go out and party and have fun, but when he got drunk he got aggressive and would pull me by my hair and just leave me on the side of the road.”

MANAGER at MES Kempton Park, Aloma Swanepoel, is seen with Isabella Zaaiman and auxiliary social worker Soul Malatjie.

She tried to get out of the relationship several times but she had nowhere to go because her family had given up hope for her, as she went back to her abusive boyfriend back every time she told them she had left him for good.

She didn’t have a job or any experience in any field and she lived with her boyfriend in his house, so she was dependent on him.

“I prayed a lot when I was in PE and asked God to please give me a way out because I didn’t want to live anymore. My faith was all I had left and I believed that He would show me a way out when it was the right time.”

One night Isabella was drinking her normal three milk stouts and half a bottle of whiskey when she knew it was the time to get out of there.

“Most of the time I would sleep with my shoes on just in case I needed to run away from him when he started getting aggressive.”

“I had R50 to my name but I knew that this was the time I was waiting and praying for. My ex-boyfriend went out to buy more alcohol and that’s when I made a run for it. I called my sister on the cellphone I had at the time and told her I was coming back home for good.”

“I don’t know if the old man will allow you back in,” was her sister’s reply.

ISABELLA showing off her work uniform. She was even made foreman of the GROW project a few months ago.

But Isabella knew she had to try to make it work and started begging at every corner, traffic light and shop she could find. Hours later she had R350 and bought herself a bus ticket back to Kempton Park.

“Ironically I slept at the MES branch in PE that night, because my bus only left the next morning. I asked the security guard to help me get to the bus stop safely because I had this huge fear that my ex-boyfriend would come and stop me from leaving.”

Zaaiman climbed on the bus safely, not realising this was going to be her second chance in life.

“When I arrived in Kempton Park, I immediately bought myself a ‘Danie dop’ (a sachet with a double shot of brandy) with my last R6. I was too scared to go home so I met a couple on the street and travelled with them for a while around Kempton.”

A few weeks later Isabella had already sold her cellphone and had been robbed of everything she had. Even her dentures had been stolen.

“I was ashamed, dirty and emotionally drained when I found myself outside MES where a man gave me a R16 coupon to sleep at the shelter for the night. I didn’t have any teeth, so I said thanks to the man with my hand in front of my mouth.”

“It was as if that little paper was a piece of gold and I held on to it with my whole life. I didn’t want to lose my one chance of sleeping warm and being clean.”

According to her it was a Wednesday in September last year when she arrived at MES. That night it was raining and they had their weekly outreach in the boardroom where a local pastor prayed for everyone at MES.

“I was standing in the church – that’s what I call it – and the pastor started praying for me. I felt at peace for the first time in a very long time and as I walked out of the boardroom, there were two very bright flashes of lightning and that’s when I saw Jesus, like we know Him from children’s books, looking at me and smiling.

ISABELLA in her GROW jacket that she is very proud of.

“I knew from that moment that everything was going to be all right and He helped me stay sober ever since. I knew I did not have to be afraid anymore because He had always protected me – and He will always protect me.”

Isabella is now seven months sober and lives with her parents in Birchleigh. She enjoys her daily job at the GROW programme at MES.

“I now also have regular contact with my children and they come to visit me often. I love my job at GROW where I sort materials such as plastic and cans to be recycled and I help around the house where I live with my parents. Our relationship is restored again and it feels so good to be back home.”

She earns R50 for four hours of work at GROW and her big dream is to get a job as a nursery school teacher, or any work that involves children.

“I would just like to thank Aloma and Dwayne at MES for taking such good care of not only me but everyone who stays at MES. It has been the best seven months of my life and I am very proud of myself for making it work this time around.

“I am a new person and I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father for giving me a second chance in life.”

Alicia Loots

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