October 2016 – Dr Melanie Salmon, Desiree English and team
On 10 October, we began a 6 week TRE® group with 53 Ladies from Benteheuwel, in the urban war-zone area of the Cape Flats near Cape Town. Desiree English is my co-trainer on our current TRE® Provider Training in Somerset West. We have 5 Module Two Trainees who required group experience and Desiree, who has worked with the Bonteheuwel walking Ladies for some time in another capacity, suggested me might offer them TRE® for a 6 week group. The women are stressed and traumatised, living in exceptionally difficult circumstances, while supporting their families. Desiree delivered an “Introduction to TRE®” talk and 53 ladies out of 60 signed ladies signed up, completing the medical indemnities for TRE®. This would be an initiative that helps us and them.
The ‘Benteheuwel Walking Ladies’ have chosen the theme “Release for Peace” for this TRE® group. The Ladies understand that if they “shake off’ all the toxic stress and trauma in their bodies they will arrive at peace in their lives. To support the theme, each Lady was given a sunflower seed to plant outside her home, to symbolise growing towards inner peace.
Desiree English : It has been one of the highlights of my journey to gather support to realise this intention. I hold immense gratitude to my mentor Dr Melanie Salmon and each of my TRE® colleagues for spontaneously, and with big open hearts, stepping up and into the project of introducing TRE® to the BWL. We are doing such meaningful, impactful and truly blessed work. It is deeply humbling to have the privilege to bear witness to the courage and determination with which all of them had embraced the wonderful healing process of “Releasing For Peace” ( see more of the back story at end of article)
Tim Knight TRE® Level 3 trainee : Only 3 sessions in and taking these remarkable women through their TRE process has raised the bar on several levels: their dedication, commitment and continuing gratitude is the most heart-warming experience we could have asked for. The team of 5 trainees & 3 facilitators led by Dr Melanie Salmon and Desiree English has gelled seamlessly and demonstrated the way forward for large community TRE facilitation; dividing a large group into smaller groups has meant that individuals are supported even whilst a large group is being facilitated.
On the participants side, we have been welcomed completely by 53 women from the one of the more violent and historically deprived sectors of the Cape community. The welcome is pleasantly surprising as a male facilitator, when one considers that the bulk of the community trauma has been perpetrated by the male population. Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies is a remarkable grassroots movement, with their inspirational leader, Soraya Salie, started off walking for peace in her community, and like the Pied Piper fable, attracted so many of her fellow womenfolk to the cause; she has just been awarded the 2016 recipient for WIWISA (Women in Islam Women in South Africa) award by the International Peace College of South Africa.
This TRE® project is also testament to Desiree English’s unwavering vision and commitment to TRE®, as she has been intimately involved assisting the group for a year, patiently waiting for the facilitation capacity to launch their TRE® process.
Whilst not even at the half way mark the progress being reported already imbues me with a sense of awe and gratitude to all of the team and to these courageous ladies – I’m trusting that we are all making footprints to be followed.
Carina Louw, TRE® Provider: What struck me the most was the love and acceptance I could feel and see between these woman! From the oldest in my group (she is in her 80’s) to the youngest (she is in her 20’s) there is a deep sense of respect, admiration and support for each other. This is a community of woman who knows what it means to stand together. They all are Warriors for peace in their community and now they are all Warriors for their healing which is such a beautiful thing!
I am in awe of their vulnerability, authenticity, strength and honesty. Their willingness to get down on the floor and tremor having these huge releases inspires me immensely! They will do whatever it takes and I have a deep sense that this is their time to reach out and receive their healing and they are all so committed in doing exactly just that.
Fazlin Davids TRE® Module 2 trainee : I grew up in a coloured community and have worked in the Cape Flats for 6 years as a counselor. I can relate having lived through many of the hardships faced on a daily basis myself such as poverty, abuse and no sense of belonging or self. For most people in the Cape Flats, being in a state of fight, flight, freeze or flood are the means to survive and all they know.
Working with the Bonteheuwel walking ladies for the past 3 weeks has been a manifestation of my life’s work. Their ability to surrender to the unknown with the exuberance of a child is such an inspiration. They are the real warriors and I feel honored to be part of this project.
I will conclude with a quote by William Ernest Henley that epitomizes what in my opinion could possibly reshape the future of the most impoverished of our country. “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
Elsmie Otto TRE® Provider: Working with the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies is more than a privilege. Being present to and supportive in their healing process is as much of a learning and healing experience for me. I am moved by their openness and warmth in welcoming us into their lives, their fearlessness in embracing this process with open arms and their deep commitment to embodying the transformation they wish for their own community.
Claire Gemmill TRE® Module 2 trainee: As a TRE® Practitioner in training, my intention has always been to share trauma release with communities around South Africa. To share it with people in a way that will have a positive impact on their lives, in hopes of transforming our nation into a peaceful one. The experience with the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies has been incredible – their commitment to themselves and their community is so evident in the way they show up smiling every week, ready and eager to release for peace. After only 3 weeks the ladies are experiencing an inner sense of calm, better sleep, less stress and aches in their bodies, and reaching a space where they feel at one with themselves.
They say the best part about TRE® is that they don’t need to talk, or think about their daily problems – they just allow their body to release the stress and let go. Through TRE®, the women are able to spend 2 hours a week giving back to themselves, practicing their breathing and showing themselves the same love and care that they selflessly give to their families, neighbours and community on a daily basis. This practice has allowed them to be comfortable and confident in who they are and realize the importance of inner peace and solitude. It is supporting them on their journey as they continue to advocate for a safer, more peaceful community for themselves and their children.
Elizma Atterbury TRE® Module 2 trainee: Working with the Bonteheuwel ladies have been such a profound experience in my TRE® training. It is amazing to be part of a group where you are welcomed so openly.
Their acceptance and trust in us and in what we have to offer have made a big contribution to their progress, and definitely to mine as well. Experiencing group work for the first time, and on this scale, has made me hopeful and grateful. Holding space for these lovely ladies have been a privilege; and with them it is ‘holding’ space and not ‘creating’ space since they have done that so beautifully already with their strong sense of community, gratitude and compassion.
Retha Roux TRE® Module 2 trainee: “Magic happens when you do not give up, even though you want to. The universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart”.
On a Wednesday morning, in the middle of my week, I visit the stubborn ladies of Bonteheuwel. I teach them TRE®. They live on the Cape Flats but refuse to be flattened by poverty, abuse, crime and ill health. As they persevere against the onslaughts that assail them, they hold up their heads, their husbands, their children, their grandchildren and their community.
They reject giving up. They obstinately commit themselves not to remain victims of the traumas of their world.
They take time on a Wednesday morning, in the middle of their week, to shake off the burden of their battles. They remind each other what is at stake and prepare body and soul for another week of relentless life.
I love their stubborn hearts.
On a Wednesday morning, in the middle of it all, they teach me life.
DESIREE ENGLISH : The back story of Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies
The Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies was established in 2007 and will be celebrating their 10th anniversary next year.
After many years of health challenges and countless surgeries, Soraya Salie sought and found inspiration in a deep connection and spiritual encounter when she was reflecting on the teaching in the Holy Qur’an. This prompted her to view her health challenges in a different light and she set out on small steps in taking charge of what was diagnosed as a hopeless situation. Together with a family friend, Soraya started walking the perimeter of Bonteheuwel every morning, inviting others to join them. The walking group steadily grew to include diverse members from all over the community. Soraya was then inspired to approach the City of Cape Town’s Sport and Recreation Department for free use of the Bonteheuwel Community Centre. When they were granted access to the centre, the BWL Club was formally established. They meet every Monday and Wednesday morning for a few hours. The ages of the club members range from 21 to 87 years.
The mission then was to purely walk and exercise for a healthier lifestyle and as a means to uplift their community.
During the early stages of the BWL group, it became apparent that many mothers and sisters in the group had experienced, and continued to experience abuse, domestic violence as well as many being drawn into and experiencing the impact of substance abuse.
This highlighted the need to seek partnerships and networks to help empower, educate and support the women in the Bonteheuwel community.
Through tireless efforts and sacrifice, the founder and chairperson of the BWL club, Soraya Salie has facilitated the establishment and implementation of collaboration efforts with organisations such as SAFFI (South African Faith and Family Institute); Embrace Dignity; Cape Cultural Collective; Iziko Museum; Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women; Parliament and the Human Rights Commission; International Women’s Peace Group; WOW! Programme of the Provincial Dept of Health.
Through training and workshops these partners support the central vision, mission and purpose of the BWL to empower, uplift and educate women in the community to better deal with life challenges and to keep them motivated and rejuvenated physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The City of Cape Town still supports the BWL with the centre for meetings and activities as well as access to the community swimming pool for swimming lessons and exercises.
On 22 August 2015 I was invited to speak at a Women’s Day event at the Jubilee Church in Observatory along with a colleague, Dr Leila Sadien. The topic was on “An Integrative Approach to Managing Stress”. I briefly introduced some breathing and relaxation practices as well as a very short overview of TRE®. Standing at the podium, I was energetically drawn to the group of ladies dressed in red and black and felt deeply compelled to approach them and hear what they are about. This is how I made a deep, heart connection with each one of them. 2 Weeks later I attended my first meeting with them and I knew then that TRE® must find its way to them. I continued going to their weekly meetings and events as often as I could and so my connection with them grew and intensified. I had quietly and publicly, to them and my TRE® mentor and colleagues declared my intention to take TRE® to them.