We like getting to know the people behind the non-profit organisations that we partner with. Today, Jenna-Lee Strugnell, who is involved with Tales of Turning which is run by the Narrative Foundation, tells us more about running a non-profit organisation.
In 10 words or fewer, what is the idea behind Tales of Turning?
Empower Vulnerable Mothers
Can you tell us a little bit more about narrative therapy and why it is so valuable/important?
Applying narrative therapy in the context of vulnerable communities is extremely valuable for many reasons. Through the narrative therapy paradigm people are acknowledged as the experts of their own lives. Our mothers come together in groups to share their expert knowledge with each other which empowers the mothers and offers mothers a valuable support system. Although we have a program that we follow our groups are responsive to the needs of the mothers who attend and solutions to problems are community driven. Using narrative therapy techniques we facilitate a safe space where mothers can reauthor the stories of their lives and delve into the hidden possibilities which are located within themselves. The activities give mothers an opportunity to reconnect with their hopes and dreams as well as to discover their skills. Through the narrative therapy paradigm we understand that the way we talk about and define motherhood in our society affects how women feel about being mothers. In our groups we speak about what it means to each participant to be a mother and what pressures they are facing from society.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received (in the context of a Non-Profit Organisation)?
It is essential to ask a community what programs or interventions they feel are useful. Imposing your own ideas on a community is disempowering and it also leads to interventions that are less effective. People are the experts of their own lives so it best for solutions to be community driven. It is always advisable to work closely with someone from the community that you are working in.
What advice would you give those wanting to work for, or start, a Non-Profit Organisation?
Never give up, never stop believing that you can change the world. Community work takes passion and dedication but it is entirely worth it.
What, in your mind, has been Tales of Turning’s biggest success?
Since the launch of the Tales of Turning project, our mothers support groups have already managed to help 75 mothers and their children.
What have you/ your organisation learnt from mistakes that may have been made?
I suppose I wouldn’t call them mistakes but we are continuously learning. To be a part of a community you need to be continuously adapting, learning and responding to the needs of different participants. To illustrate this I can tell you about our initial challenge to find participants for our groups. As our groups started we had to build up trust first as understandably people were apprehensive of something new. To do this we were always on time, we were where we said we would be and did what we said we would do. It was nice to hear comments from the participants in these first groups. The mothers said that they kept participating because of the interactive nature of the group and that the groups were fun. They also commented that it was nice not to be lectured and that the groups reflect a feeling of equality. After our first successful three month program we again faced the challenge of finding participants so we made flyers, contacted schools and collaborated with other NGOs. Our mothers also invited new mothers to the groups. We are now gaining momentum for our groups and more participants want to join the groups which is why we are so dedicated to continuing them.
In what way would you like Tales of Turning to impact South Africa?
I want Tales of Turning to offer support to vulnerable mothers so that every child has the best possible start to life. Children who feel safe and loved at home are more likely to complete their education and become productive members of our society. This continues the cycle of the project as the children turn into adults and are able to offer their children more opportunities. Tales of Turning aims to connect mothers to resources such as employment opportunities. We are dedicated to working with vulnerable mothers as equipped with the right resources they have the power to uplift whole families and communities. I would also like Tales of Turning to start conversations about motherhood and the pressures that women are facing to meet society’s standards of being a ‘good enough’ mother.
Have you met any people or heard any stories that have inspired you to do the work that you do? If so, please tell us a little more.
There are so many stories that inspire me everyday. Stories of courage and strength as well as resistance to injustices in big and small ways. The dedication of the mothers inspires me as they are determined to offer their children a better life despite the many challenges that they are facing.
Why did you decide to do the work that you do?
Community work has been my passion since I was a young child and I have been a volunteer for a wide range of projects since my teenage years. After school I completed Honors in Psychology however I was disillusioned with the injustices I saw around me and the fact that only wealthy people can afford to use the services of psychologists. I felt a deep desire to serve others and facilitate programs which combat oppression and facilitate a space where people are given the opportunities that they deserve.
Once I discovered narrative therapy I fell in love with this way of thinking and continued my training seeing the opportunity to apply these techniques in a community context. As I was working at a Neuropsychology practice and then with autistic children I was running community projects at the same time. In 2015 I was given an incredible opportunity from Vodacom who sponsored me to run a community project full time. This meant I could dedicate myself one hundred percent to developing and implementing a project. There are so many needs in South Africa and there were so many projects that I could have implemented but I wanted to go to the root of it all. From my Psychology training and work experience I understand that the foundations of a healthy society start at home and that a mothers bond with her children is very important. As children grow up this bond helps to protect them from peer pressure and supports them in making the most of their education. I could also see the many challenges that mothers face to meet the needs of their children. I wanted to offer mothers support both from myself as a group facilitator but also by facilitating a space where mothers in the community could come together, share their knowledge and bond. I developed a program from my Psychology degree and work experience that includes parenting skills, self-esteem and empathy activities as well as how to make educational activities from recyclable materials.
I believe that equipped with the right resources mothers have the power to uplift whole families and communities so I wanted to connect mothers to resources such as employment, skills development and healthcare . From my training in narrative therapy I was also aware that the way we speak about motherhood puts pressure on mothers sometimes making them feel that they are not ‘good enough’. I wanted mothers to have a space where they could speak about the challenges that they are facing and also learn to self-nurture – a place where mothers could reconnect with their hopes and dreams and discover their talents and skills.
To find out more information on Tales of Turning’s project with Different.org or to supported them, click here.