Madeline Alexander

CEO
Communications
Marketing Department

On my 60th birthday I started studying Social Psychology through Skillful Hands Organisation. I was also the oldest in the class. This was very different to what I did in the corporate industry. I have a Diploma in Credit Management through Cape Town University of Technology. This course has now become a Degree in Credit Management.

I had previously worked as Credit Manager for 27 years in the corporate FMCG industry. Companies I worked for included Irvin & Johnson, Ceres Fruit Juices, Frucon Foods and many more. One of my biggest achievements was bringing the outstanding debt in 120 days down to 0.05% on a Ledger of R42 million. Staff reporting to me were over 20.
From the Social Psychology course I learnt that I was a Psychological mess, when my youngest daughter, Lynne, was born because she was Down’s syndrome. I experienced Criticism of Daily Living at hospital because I could feel every one’s eyes on me when visitors came as I was made to feel like I had given birth to an abnormal child. I felt I had failed my husband in not giving birth to a normal child. Back then society was not as open as it is today so most people never went out with their children or they put them in an Institution away from society.

Our neighbour had put her son in a mental institution and we were told he was mad. I can recall him sitting in the sand alone when he came home weekends as nobody wanted to play with him as he made clicking sounds and could not speak.
A nurse asked me if they could contact an NPO called Chere Botha for someone to come and counsel me. After meeting the counsellor I felt more positive about my baby and eventually I became a counsellor with them for about 2 years. I had access to hospitals at all times to counsel other women who had given birth to Down’s syndrome babies. This was still in the Apartheid era. I had become a much stronger person after this and fought for the right to have my child accepted in Society

Lynne passed away within a week after being diagnosed with double pneumonia at the Age of 27. During her stay in hospital I asked the doctor if she was dying and he said people do not die of pneumonia. I saw her slowly slipping away. I was devastated after her passing. My world came crashing down. I cannot explain the emptiness I felt within my soul. The loss of a child is so different to losing a parent as it is a part of you that is gone. Her death left a huge gap in my life and I had difficulty coping with it. She was my baby in every sense of the word I started the course as I wanted to counsel people who had lost loved ones especially Mothers. It was very intimidating but the topics being taught were extremely interesting

One of the topics we studied was on Grief Therapy and I understood my feelings so much after that. How we feel when we lose a loved one. How we are affected psychologically. Our coping mechanisms. Depression, mourning and more. I had gone through all of them. One thing I discovered though is how people hurt you when they sympathise with you. They
mean well but they say the wrong words. I found inner healing studying Social Psychology
From this course I learnt how to deal with my grandchildren a lot better. In-laws,family relationships, skeletons in your cupboards, my husband’s illnesses through Bio-Psycho-Social Man and much more. The course encompasses a huge variety of different topics on interacting with people socially. You also learn how to cope with people in the business world

After doing my 30 hours of practical counselling I was so overwhelmed after hearing stories of grief, child abuse, from speaking to Grandmothers, children being neglected because Mother is drunk or on drugs and that from counselling these women I could see inner healing in them. I appreciated the blessings in my own life more and how I was determined to ensure this never happened to my grandchildren. I had learnt how to listen to people and that just sharing
their story with me made a huge difference in their lives. Their body language, the environment, and their behaviour I could not walk away.

Watching how the other counsellors work and listening to them, they really cared about the people they counselled. Working with these women has changed my life in so many ways. I now have more empathy. Part of the many duties I perform are liaising with people regarding the Social Psychology course. Encouraging them to do the course, Updating our Facebook page and now Marketing the NPO in sourcing funding.
I made the companies I worked for extremely profitable by keeping down bad debt and now I would like to make Skillful Hands a profitable NPO. Through hard work, dedication and determination I believe that this is possible