An intimate, innate bond between women is one of the significant factors that drives forward the mission of Careline, a nationwide counselling and skills development volunteer project.

The project forms part of international humanitarian foundation Gift of the Givers; the largest disaster response non-profit organisation on the African continent. 

“It is an inward strength that holds women together to form a united sisterhood,” says Zohra Sooliman, who heads up the project. “A sisterhood that will come to the rescue of another sister in need and will step in until that sister feels safe and understood.â?

With 95% of volunteers being the fairer sex, this formidable sisterhood aims to break grounds. 

“Women naturally are carers and nurturers; they possess the qualities of being highly perceptive and intuitive which is a valuable skill in counselling. They also extend warmth, compassion and empathy more easily,” said Zohra.

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The project, which was established in 1997, consists of community outreach programmes, life skills workshops, marriage and parenting guidance, emotional empowerment and capacity building, support groups for women in facing domestic violence, bereavement, HIV/Aids or other difficult situations. 

Careline prides itself on equipping each individual with physical, mental, emotional, educational, financial, economical and social tools custom-made for each situation. 

And whilst the work undertaken is not specifically targeted at women, they do largely benefit from the programmes, said Zohra. â??Perhaps the reason for this is that women are more forthcoming and ready to address their problems according to their situation.â?

Zohra, who is also a qualified counsellor, undertakes strategic planning of ensuring the longevity of the project. She also facilitates and conducts training and support groups on a regular basis.  

According to Careline, women have been known to be more vulnerable physically and economically, with a growing number of women in South Africa now also becoming the breadwinners in their households.

Targeting both unemployed and self-employed individuals throughout the country, outreach programmes assist in identifying the available resources of a community, thereafter creating a sustainable livelihood and support network for the individuals. 

Skills empowerment include training and development in profitable areas such as agricultural farming, gardening, sewing, baking and arts and crafts. Careline even provides practical skills such as marketing, bookkeeping and quality-control through the assistance of qualified field workers. 

Each volunteer counsellor undergoes rigorous training after which they are mentored by experienced counsellors to achieve competency. Counsellors are also constantly monitored and have to commit to ongoing training, seminars and workshops relevant to the field of counselling which keeps them in good stead. 

So what are the benefits of becoming a volunteer?

Appreciation, compassion, empathy and an ‘amazing’ strength, says Zohra, who adds that many women who have benefitted from the programmes later become volunteers themselves. 

“I have seen how negative situations have brought out the best in them and turned around their lives for the better. These women have reclaimed in many instances lost or forgotten identities, boosting their self-esteem.”

Women also make ideal volunteers

â??Women are great multi-taskers,â? says Zohra. Many women, despite having their own careers and businesses, volunteer their time to the Careline 

When someone else experiences difficulty women are ready to extend a lifeline to support them, she adds. 

“They are able to identify with someone else’s pain, hurt and anguish as though it is their own.  They muster all their resources to support each other, draw strength from each other and show little kindnesses in meaningful ways.” 

If you would like to get involved in volunteer work contact Zohra Sooliman at the Gift of the Givers at 033 345 0163 or visit www.giftofthegivers.org.