“We were excited about the weather and what we had heard about the people’s friendliness.” Those were Patrick (48) and his partner’s reasons for migrating from Antwerp, Belgium to South Africa in 2000. Patrick, a qualified psychologist and interior architect, loves using his talent and skills to build successful ventures.
They established a successful B&B, interior design store and a restaurant in the resort town of Ballito, near Durban. Despite some challenges they were still going strong ten years later. “We needed a change.” he says. “Durban was beautiful, but we wanted to move to Cape Town with its rich cultural life. In 2010, they set off for the Cape, and later settled in Melkbosstrand and Langebaan.
Love and loss “The turning point came when my partner of more than 20 years, slowly succumbed to advanced Alzheimer’s and later contracted encephalitis. He died shortly after being diagnosed. The grief in losing his partner of 28 years was further deepend when his partner's family claimed almost all of their assets. He literally lost everything when his car which he was sleeping in, was broken into and all of his belongings stolen. After an attempted suicide, he was treated in the psychiatric ward of Somerset Hospital. He was discharged a few days later with the clothes he was wearing and a referral letter for The Haven.
Rock bottom “I had never heard of The Haven and didn’t know what to expect.” Arriving late in the evening, all the beds had already been allocated. “The kind host must have felt my desperation and made a plan to let me stay the night - my first at The Haven.” That was in June 2016.
Patrick did not wait for a miracle. From almost day 1, he set to work in the kitchen and very soon he was helping with cooking and planning menus! "My vision was not to spend the rest of my life in a shelter! I was determined to find a job, and decided to scour the internet and do all my job-hunting online.
New beginnings...again Finding a job was not easy. “I’m white, male, 48, and a foreigner. I don’t know many companies openly looking for those criteria!” he jokes. “I had to think about my unique skills and talents”. Patrick is proficient in five languages. He soon landed a job in an airline call centre. A few months ago, he accepted another position at a leading online store and now works in its German-speaking customer care department.
Moving forward Professionally, Patrick has big plans for his own progression in the company. On the home front, he plans to move into a rented apartment with a buddy and is enjoying having fun again. He also has a plan to give back to The Haven.
I don’t know where I would have ended up if not for this amazing organisation. I am working on offering computer literacy training to The Haven residents in my free time”. Patrick’s energy, tenacity, and determination to succeed against all odds, seems limitless.
He remains grateful to The Haven for the incredible work they do, and the second chance at life that a kind host offered him one cold night, just eight short months ago.
* Patrick requested The Haven to use his real name.