Adonis Musati Project

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The Adonis Musati Project (AMP) was named after a young Zimbabwean man who died of starvation on the streets of Cape Town while queuing to get his asylum papers. The project was formed at the end of 2007 in an effort to ensure that no other refugee or asylum seeker would suffer the same fate. South Africa remains the highest destination country in the world for asylum seekers. These cross-border migrants are among the most vulnerable and marginalised group of people in South Africa. Most have suffered political or economic trauma in their countries of origin and many are victims of genocide, sexual violence, and massive human rights violations.

They journey to South Africa seeking safety, only to be faced with overwhelming obstacles once here. Apart from the stress of survival and seeing to the immediate needs of shelter and food, migrants face the constant threat of deportation, government red tape, corruption at immigration offices, xenophobia and lack of social and medical assistance. In addition they suffer many other human rights abuses including unwarranted arrests, exclusion from educational facilities (because of documentation) and exploitation and discrimination in the workplace. Documents of limited validity compromise refugees' efforts to become self-reliant by making it hard for them to hold long-term jobs or open bank accounts. Migrants also have to overcome language and cultural barriers which in the case of women and children can lead to isolation, gender violence and depression.

AMP’s mission is to offer holistic assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa and foster sustainable support systems within their communities. AMP believes in taking a holistic approach to offering assistance, addressing both the physical and mental needs of its clientele. It strives to address the gap of access and availability in services for this population, while encouraging individual sustained growth and eventual self-reliance. AMP’s vision is to see asylum seekers and refugees in Cape Town completely self-sufficient and providing for their families, making use of their individual professional and/or technical skills to not only secure their own meaningful livelihood, but to make positive contributions to the South African economy and serve its citizens and the country on the whole. 

The history of Adonis Musati Project has stretched a long way since it was formed in 2007 and has run a variety of programmes including a feeding scheme to serve asylum seekers queuing at the Refugee Reception Centre in Cape Town, distribution of second-hand clothing, toiletries, sleeping bags to those in need, assistance with transport costs to hospital and sponsorship of basic medicines, and distribution of information brochures that outline where else asylum seekers may seek assistance for legal difficulties, jobs, training, healthcare, etc.

During the Xenophobic attacks in May 2008, AMP assisted with transporting refugees to the various Internally Displaced Persons camps in the Peninsula. From September 2009 to January of 2011 AMP ran an emergency shelter called Musati House for vulnerable asylum seekers. AMP helped most of the residents move on to independence through sponsorship of adult training programmes and assistance in securing employment. A number of the younger residents have been sponsored to complete their secondary education and were placed on our Independent Living Programme where they receive long term school sponsorship and mentorship.  

Current Peer Counselling Programme

At the beginning of 2013, AMP changed its modi operandi and introduced a new Peer Counselling Project. Aim of the project is to go beyond providing once-off emergency assistance to individuals and to support refugees and asylum seekers in a more sustainable manner. Due to traumatic experiences that many refugees and asylum seekers face, most of AMPs clients exhibit mental stress and hopelessness that impedes them from moving forward in life. Therefore, AMP believes that a more holistic approach is required and it found that without addressing the mental health needs of its clients, the physical assistance it provides is unsustainable and not effective enough.

The basis of the Peer Counselling Project is to empower refugees themselves to assist their peers. AMP intends to focus its support on empowering a smaller group of resilient, skilled, capable individuals, so that they, in turn, can reach out and assist their peers, therefore extending AMP’s services to many more vulnerable individuals.  Adonis Musati Project equips these peers by putting them through a 6-month training programme, where they receive basic counselling training. During this 6-month period they put their skills to practice by facilitating 12-week support groups in the Cape Town refugee communities.

The aim of the support groups is to encourage inter-dependence of AMP’s beneficiaries on fellow support group members, rather than reliance on AMP staff and volunteers. The support groups work through themes such as problem solving, goal setting, conflict resolution, living with HIV etc. which will empower beneficiaries to become self-sufficient.  In this way, a support network is created that lends itself to a much more sustainable, long-term intervention. Next to the support groups, AMP continues to run a carefully monitored welfare component that includes distribution of food, clothing, etc.  Its peer counsellors are trained with regard to legal rights and obligations of asylum seekers and refugees in Cape Town, and informed of services available at other relevant organisations in the community. In this way, the peer counsellors can disseminate practical information to their peers as well, with the aim of equipping them with the resources they need to move forward.

Impact in the Community

With the feedback received from support group members, we believe we are making a significant positive impact in the communities where we are implementing support groups. Group members have been very eager to share their testimonies with us. One man stood up in front of his group and declared that as a result of the health discussions that went on in group sessions, he finally went to a clinic to test his HIV status. He openly encouraged his fellow support group members to go and get tested. He claimed that without the motivation and encouragement of the group, he would never have had the courage to get tested. Another woman shared that she had been very lonely and isolated before the group. She now felt like she was more integrated and connected to others in her community, and felt more motivated to go out and meet with people and create a better livelihood for herself. Another woman said that because of the encouragement from the group she enrolled in an adult education programme at ARESTA, a local nonprofit. She said that although she knew about ARESTA’s services before the group, she did not have enough self-confidence to enrol until now. Quite a few people expressed their gratitude for the information provision on legal documentation, and claimed that they had a better understanding of the procedure they must follow in obtaining proper documentation.

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