A second chance

Winnie Bambiso has been given a second chance. Bambiso, who ended up in Valkenberg Hospital after hearing voices, has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic.

But thanks to medication and her own great determination, Bambiso now has permanent employment with Old Mutual in the company’€™s policy files section.

She first came to the company on a transitional six-month contract through Fountain House. A project of Cape Mental Health Society, Fountain House helps former psychiatric patients to get back to work by training them and arranging temporary work placements with sympathetic companies.

Bambiso, a quick-thinking and determined woman from Nyanga, so impressed Old Mutual that, at the end of her six-month contract in 1996, she was offered a permanent job.

“At first, I was very quiet. One or two people passed some comments, but I told my supervisor and he sorted everything out,” says Bambiso.

Working alongside Bambiso at Old Mutual are Paul Austin and Jennifer Chigome. Austin has also been diagnosed as a schizophrenic while Chigome suffers from depression.

Like Bambiso, they have been sent to the company on six-month, half-day contracts by Fountain House.

Austin, young, neat and attractive, says he ended up in hospital last year because he didn’€™t take his tablets. “But my mood disorder can be controlled if I do take my tablets”, he says assuringly.

Their section head, the easy-going Selwyn Nicholas, has been part of the arrangement with Fountain House since the beginning.

“I must say it has been a very good experience. The Fountain House people tend to really appreciate being given a second chance at life. They give their best all the time,” says Nicholas.

Nicholas’€™s management ability has been challenged by the fact that every person sent to him by Fountain House has different symptoms.

“The social workers tell me what to expect, then I call in my staff the day before they arrive and explain these symptoms and possible problems and ask them to try to be accommodating.”

His policy is to include the Fountain House members as “part and parcel” of his section. “Where we go, they go,” he says.

Chigome confirms that she feels “part of the team”, and says she so appreciates her job as it gives her day purpose — “rather than sitting at home pondering on my problems”.

Nicholas says that his contact with Fountain House has also enriched his life. “I have come to appreciate what I have in my life, especially my health. They are a wonderful group of people who face a difficult time.” ‘€“ Health-e.


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