After seeking asylum in South Africa in 2009, Lucien needed support and guidance to rebuild his life in South Africa. We take a look at Lucien’s journey with the Scalabrini Welfare programme and how this has helped him rebuild his family.
Leaving family behind in DRC
Lucien grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2009, when the country was politically unstable, Lucien was forced to leave and seek refuge in South Africa. “For safety reasons I needed to leave my wife and two children and come first,” he explains.
In 2013, Lucien was reunited with his family in South Africa. Family reunification is a joyous occasion – but comes with challenges too. “We had been apart for so long and although I was in regular contact, we needed to rebuild our family from the beginning,” he says. “My children were older. I needed to get to know them again and rebuild my relationship with my wife.”
Lucien admits that he became quite dominating in his family. “I would get upset easily and sometimes became bitter and resentful. This had a negative effect on my relationship with my wife and children.”
“We had been apart for so long and although I was in regular contact, we needed to rebuild our family from the beginning,”
Re-building a family through Welfare
In 2018, the Welfare Team at Scalabrini decided to pilot a parental skills programme with a men’s group. The parental skills program, in partnership with Salesian Life Choices, helps clients to strengthen family units. A strong family forms an important base for migrants and refugees trying to integrate in South Africa. Lucien was invited to join.
Reflecting on the men’s parenting programme, Lucien explains that “the course offered a safe place to reflect and share my experiences with others. I was able to reflect on my own parenting style and realise what wasn’t working. I now choose a more positive, collaborative style of engaging with my family, which I hadn’t known about before.”
After each session, Lucien sat with his family and went through the course notes. “We started to work more together as a team. As I changed, the family changed with me.” He even jokes and says “sometimes if I go back to my old way my children and wife remind me by pointing to the ‘No Put-Down Zone’ poster we were given in our first session.”
Lucien feels that has made the most of the opportunities provided to him. “Scalabrini has become like my second home. I know I will always get the support I need and be guided towards standing on my own. If you are willing to put the effort in, the rewards can be huge. For me, the reward has been rebuilding my family.”
“I was able to reflect on my own parenting style and realise what wasn’t working. I now choose a more positive, collaborative style of engaging with my family, which I hadn’t known about before.”