Gertrude Fester

A newspaper article

In this series we focus on the roles of individuals and what they have done in communities. However, it is not only the extensive work the individual has done that we look at. We pry into the personal and the public political roles of the individual- what makes them do community work and how this affects them personally.

I first met DG at a conference. I was amazed at her eloquence and her obvious passion for community work. Her commitment to the poor, marginalised and oppressed people is evident in all she does.  Throughout our interview she tried to undermine or minimise her contributions. However, when you look at her CV, or when you speak to her comrades, colleagues or the communities where she is involved; she really has, throughout her life, tried to improve the lives of others.  And with success too- if we look at Malibongwe   and Vroue voorentoe! but two of the many projects she has initiated.

DG’s central focus is on social justice.  The kernel of all her activities is her concern about the status and situation of poor women. She has been instrumental in initiating many organisations- all focused on improving the lives of women.

She definitely has a passion for alleviating the hardships of the poor. Yet the last line of her CV was for me the most revealing about DG. She dreams of writing a comic novel. When I asked her about this- when she had first expressed this desire- she could not tell me.  ‘Maybe 5 or 7 years ago,’ she attempted. Then she added:’ I cannot remember’.  I scanned the list of publications in her CV- more than 30 chapters –but all in books written and compiled by others.  Not a single book of her own. We look forward to the day when this ‘community angel’ will accomplish her dream and complete her ‘comic novel’.

A psychology journal article

This patient, DG, suffers from marked insecurity. She constantly requires the approval of others. She does not love herself – in fact she deeply loathes herself. She is not clinically schizophrenic but is behaviourally so. There is no evidence of chemical imbalance and hence she requires no medication. What she does require is a series of deep reflections- getting to know herself and her personal needs. I need to emphasise this: the patient sees to the needs of all the people around her but fails to address her own. She is chronically disposed towards trying to help the poor, the oppressed and the marginalised, the forgotten; the materially and spiritually impoverished. However, she forgets that she too is all of the above. This behaviour could well be symptomatic of transference- helping others whereas she desperately requires help herself.

As therapy I propose that she keeps a daily journal. At the end of each day she must assess all her activities.  She should list what she had done for others and what for herself.  She should also calculate how many hours she has spent doing tasks for others and what she has done for herself. Hereafter she should write a reflective passage in which she analyses and explains her actions to herself.

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