Journey of Reconciliation: A Story of Healing and Transformation

Raphael, a man with a past marked by silence and missed connections, embarked on a journey of self-discovery and reconciliation through his participation in Scalabrini’s Men’s Development Group. Initially, joining Scalabrini’s Men’s Development Group was not what Raphael wanted, but it ended up being precisely what he needed – and after many years of separation, he experienced the joy of reuniting with his son. 

Becoming a father 

In 2005, Raphael had saved up enough money to leave South Africa and join some of his siblings in France. Just before he was about to leave, he found out he was going to become a father. “I thought to myself, once the baby arrives then I can travel, but once he was born, I realised how much I loved him.” In becoming a father, Raphael was flooded with memories of his own father and realised he did not want his son to grow up in the same way.  

For the next few years, Raphael watched his son grow up. “The very first step he took was when he was with me at the beach, and the first word to come out of his mouth was ‘Dada’,” Raphael recalls.  

A time came when Raphael had to travel back to the Democratic Republic of Congo to look after his mother. During this time, his relationship with his son fell apart, and he began seeing the negative feelings that he had as a young person toward his father, in his son.  

Change on the horizon 

Raphael moved back to South Africa with his wife whom he met back home in DRC. Once back in Cape Town, friends encouraged Raphael’s wife to join Scalabrini’s Women’s Platform. “When we moved to town and I found a job, I told her, okay, why don’t you go there instead of being at home all day? You can meet new people.”  

Raphael’s wife found huge value within the Women’s Platform and wanted Rafael to join one of Scalabrini’s programmes too. However, Raphael was initially hesitant, driven by his focus on providing for his family. “I told her that I don’t have time for that, but she insisted,” he recalls. Raphael met with Etienne, Scalabrini’s Men’s Development Group coordinator, and he invited Raphael to join a session. “He said that I can join on that day, but I had slippers on. So, I asked him if I could quickly go home and change, and he said, “No, you don’t have to go home. Just go there. There’s nothing special about wearing shoes.” 

A time of healing 

Raphael explains that he only wanted to observe the first session. His turning point came when the group discussion revolved around the importance of opening and addressing personal problems. He found himself sharing his struggles with the group. He says, “I used to smile, laugh, make jokes, but it was only to cover that void inside me. There was too much going on in my life. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I wanted to look like I was a strong person.” 

It was the first time he had ever spoken about his internal battles, and the weight that had burdened him for years started to lift. 

The Men’s Group provided a safe space for Raphael to open up about his life, something he had rarely done before. He described his upbringing, marked by the absence of his father and the hardships faced by his family. Raphael’s determination to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and his desire to be a better father and role model began to emerge during these group sessions. 

Reaching out to his son 

The Men’s Group became the catalyst for Raphael to acknowledge that he needed to reach out to his son. He began to think about how he could rebuild the relationship. The group sessions empowered him to confront his past mistakes and provided guidance on how to heal fractured bonds. 

Through the support and guidance of the Men’s Platform, Raphael reached out to his son and arranged a meeting. “I had a chance to explain to him how I grew up and what the decision was between me and his mother,” Raphael recalled. “But I didn’t want to make excuses. I knew I needed to take responsibility.” The conversation was emotional, and his son’s tears revealed the pain he had been carrying. Raphael’s sincerity and willingness to take responsibility led to a breakthrough in their relationship.  

“If it was not for the Men’s Development Group, I was not going to be where I am with my son today. Now, when I call my son’s mother, she says, “You have no idea how much you have made a difference in this boy’s life. You made a good choice; he is so different now.” 

The power of a community 

Raphael’s story stands as a testament to the power of community support and the potential of support groups like the Men’s Development Group. The power of these sessions extends beyond the sessions themselves – they can influence the lives of participants and, in turn, positively impact their families and communities. 

** Scalabrini’s Men’s Development Group supports men to come out of isolation and develop skills to overcome issues affecting their lives. Together, the group identifies and addresses the difficulties impacting them. The aim of the Men’s Group is to create a network of trust, support, development and resource – where participating men are able to overcome difficulties and improve their lives. **