A group of mostly destitute women at the Ark City of Refuge standing in a tight circle first have a group prayer before sharing their tales of desperation.
One tells of her struggle to get off tik, another elaborates on her sombre past.
“It was horrible, horrible…” says an emotional Emilene Ferreira (51).
“Because the Ark is run on Christian principles, most of them have discovered God,” she says.
Milnerton’s Emilene, who plans to walk the Camino de Santiago spiritual pilgrimage in Europe, listened to some of the heartbreaking stories.
She decided to sleep at the Ark near Mfuleni on Friday night so that she knows precisely what to take with her on her spiritual journey through Spain.
The people at the Ark will not walk with her, but they will be in her heart.
She will tell all who are interested about the organisation in Cape Town that looks after people with no refuge.
The Ark, in addition to providing for the physical needs of people, use Christian-based counseling and life-skills to bring about spiritual, mental, and physical healing to facilitate re-introduction to the community.
They depend on donations in order to provide the help they offer, and there are never enough.
Emilene took it upon herself to raise awareness for the Ark while she walks with God through Spain on the pilgrimage.
This will be the third time that she will meander through the country, the first walk she took was an 800km journey on the Camino Frances.
Last year she took a group of 12 pilgrims from numerous countries on the same route.
There is no time limit on these pilgrimages.
Emilene continues: “This time I am starting in Seville on 23 May and will walk 1000 km to Santiago de Compostela, which is where all the Camino routes end.”
Camino de Santiago means “The Way of St James” and is a pilgrimage that has been walked for more than a 1000 years.
Initially a Catholic pilgrimage, it has since evolved into a vastly popular multi-denominational event which roughly 200 000 people walk every year.
“St Francis of Assissi walked this pilgrimage 800 years ago, and now every 100 years they issue a special Compostela (a certificate).”
Some will cycle the route, some will ride on horseback and some will walk with donkeys, but most just walk it in solitude.
In order to get a Compostela, one must walk the last 100km.
“One will walk during the day and then find a place to sleep, often in small towns during the night. Sometimes one will sleep in a church loft and sometimes in a hostel with up to 30 people in a room. I find that because I am free from all my ‘normal’ responsibilities that occupy our everyday life. it leaves me with all this time to contemplate. I feel incredibly close to God when I do this.”
Emilene hopes to meet the right person who could help the Ark with consistent funding.
Last year she walked for her friend Sonja van Rhyn who suffers from Multiple System Atrophy, an incurable illness.
“It was just incredible how people have responded. She has been getting phone calls from all over the world,” exclaims Emilene.