This real-life story by Colleen Hughes is a heart-warming and inspiring tale that shows how the strength of a woman can overcome any obstacle.

Peace is represented by the light shining from all these candles, shining into the darkness of our lives. Sometimes our darkness overwhelms us and we fail to reach for the light, and hope seems to die. But women have an amazing inner strength that brings hope back to life. 

When my parents got divorced during World War II, we were placed in an orphanage

I was only four years old and my brother and sister even younger. We were shunted from place to place, even after my father re-married. So it was boarding schools and hostels, and ten different schools before the final stay in one hostel until I matriculated.

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It was not surprising that I got married at the age of 19, looking for love and security

But over the years the pattern repeated itself. My husband was often absent for long weeks at a time, leaving me to cope with the ever-growing family. We were always short of money, and it was always â??my faultâ? that things were bad 

He prevented me from working but I eventually defied him 

This never lasted long as he intimidated me with threats and I would give in. There was always enough money for his drinking and whatever he wanted, but not enough to pay the bills, or support our children. 

He was a very hard man, hard on his children and on me  

He started to beat the older children for nothing, and used to threaten me.I began to fear for the lives of my children, and when the youngest was 4, I learnt he was involved with other women and that was the final straw.  

We lived in a very small town in South West Africa (Namibia today)

There were no facilities for counselling. So I steeled myself to confront him and sued for divorce. I contacted my sister in Roodepoort, and decided to leave him and move to the Transvaal.

We came by train, with what we could carry

The children were very frightened and confused, and I remember having to play games and sing to them, calming their fears, and promising them we would be okay. 

On 6 December 1972 we arrived at Park Station to start a whole new life

A young mother with 5 children aged 4 to 13 years old, with no job, no house, no furniture, no car, but with the courage born of desperation to build a future for her family.

We moved in with my sister for a very short while, I had a few temporary jobs, then started in my first permanent job, selling pianos and organs. That was the beginning of a career in sales, which helped us to not only survive, but improve our standard of living.   

Within a few years we bought our own house

We had almost no maintenance or support from their father, only R20 per child per month, (nothing for me!) but we always had enough to eat and managed to stay out of serious trouble, financially, and otherwise.

I married again some years later, but my children were very independent and used to being without a father-figure. They accepted the change and were glad for me. As the years passed, the children grew up, and today they are successful and all have positive, winning attitudes, which they instil in their own children.  

Now my task is uplifting and inspiring others to take control of their lives 

I work as a sales leader for Avon, which challenges dare me to always do better, and with the Avon Sales Leadership programme you are not doing it for yourself or by yourself, but the rewards are there.

There are over 150 representatives on my team alone

We call ourselves â??The Eagle Teamâ? because we fly high, see far and always get our prey! The success of my team has elevated me to the top achievers club this past two years, where Avon really spoils us! Avonâ??s mission is to empower women and this is very close to my heart.

I encourage every woman  who feels that there is no hope, to take courage

The courage that is within, and know that there is a better future for you. Take that first step, and then the second, and keep going with your heart set on your dreams and goals. Never, never, never give up.  Dreams and goals become reality!

You can do it, because you are strong. Empower yourself, take advantage of the opportunities that come your way and put your faith in God.


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