The Power of Support
How one woman’s life has changed with faith in Jesus, support from committed organisations and a sisterhood that prays and stays together.
“I started with drugs when I was 18 years old because I heard it helped a person lose weight, and I was struggling then,” says Chilli (Charity) Ndimande, “as all my siblings could wear shorts, vests and tuck their jeans in, but I grew up chubby so was trying to get thin. That was what drove me.”
Chilli, now 45 years old, is blunt about what drew her so easily into drugs but tells a story of difficult twists and turns as she came clean and began to dream of a better life for her and her children. Her short time in prison for having one small packet of Mandrax on her as the police stopped her one day, was enough of a wake-up call to get her life right. “I went to ‘rehab’ in prison after 15 years of taking drugs,” she laughs, “God had a plan. He took the thing I loved and let me be arrested for it!” She stopped drugs during that short time.
However, Chilli had no means of income and was drawn into a group who were involved in shoplifting and reselling. “I had no money, no job, no income and wanted to show my family I was somebody,” she explains, “and so I found these friends who had cars, stayed in posh places – I thought, this is the life I want to live.” Chilli was arrested in Durban for shoplifting and sentenced to a year in prison. “I went from junkie to now being a jailbird. Now what?”
On her parole release within a year, she had nothing. “I realised I had a chance to start again, and I would rather have nothing than risk being arrested again and not being with my children,” she remembers wistfully. Life was tough. Her brother ran a tavern, where she stayed, so Chilli cleaned daily and earned small amounts of money like that, just enough for basic food. “I would find R5 on the floor now and then and would buy something special like chips or cooldrink.” After two years of ‘hustling’ and cleaning and making little bits of money go a very long way, she heard about The Clothing Bank, a non-profit that recruits people to sell goods and run a small business doing so.
“I was accepted! But I had never really worked for someone in my entire life, it was my first proper job, so I was scared, but prayed for God to give me a second chance.” The two years since being in prison had been so tough, she was desperate for some lasting change and employment. The mentoring and training Chilli received helped her get on her feet, selling goods door-to-door. Other doors of opportunity opened too. “Sometimes the people will say, ‘Wow, you look so beautiful. What are you doing? Are you still on drugs? You are so inspiring! Can you talk to our kids, can you tell us how to help them?’” she laughs. “So, I end up sitting down, having coffee and going with the flow in that home and sharing my story. So, my life is fun now – it is God.”
At The Clothing Bank Chilli met Vuyo who invited her to a City Mission support group run by Blondy that now she will not miss. “I was so inspired by this place (City Mission), we sit down and talk each week, we share, we look back at our lives and learn. We read the Bible and pray together.” Chilli is clear that God has carried her through, and the group that meets every week is a key part of that. “We all need a place like City Mission and people like Blondy and Carmen in our lives – who have hope in our futures. Sometimes even our families are waiting for us to fail, but in the City Mission group we are helped to put on the shields that will protect us, and we pray together, and we are not alone. It gives us strength to keep moving forward.”