by Monique Broumels

Amy Biehl and the South African Ubuntu Foundation Breakfast

Monique Strydom speaks on survival tactics

Helping abused children for 12 years

The South African Ubuntu Foundation's breakfast network meetings are always interesting. But this morning it was riveting.

Monique Strydom spoke about her experience of being kidnapped and the survival tactics that helped them make it through 14 weeks of captivity.

Often within inches of their lives, running through the night from the Filipino army and surviving on little more than a handful of rice a day, these experiences, instead of devastating the couple, strengthened them and on their release allowed them to live fulfilling lives not only for themselves but for many others.

On return from their horrible situation Monique closed her business and started working on the business plan she wrote on the morning of her release.

On that very morning, despite all the hardship and difficulties that they had gone through being held captive by rebel forces, she said to her husband Callie, that now she understood why she had had to go through this experience.

And so the Strydom Trust and Matla a bana, a charity that looks after abused children and which has been operating with great success over the past twelve years was born.

The six tips that Monique gave us for surviving being a hostage are survival tips that we can all use in our everyday lives – after all, how many of us are not held hostage by our emotions or our perceived shortcomings?

I may not be able to replicate the impact that these six points had when Monique put them into the context of her talk. She cleverly linked each one to an item that she wished she could have taken with her before they were forced to flee with the rebels and supported them with  moments of capture tales. I think that you should probably read their amazing tale in their book called Shooting the Moon.

None the less, here they are:

  1. Take control of the situation (get a grip and remember that the only thing to fear is fear itself!)

  2. Expand your borders. Push your fear away by expanding your experiences.

  3. See the humour of the situation – or any situation. Have a laugh, you might as well.

  4. Have a positive mental attitude. Your attitude determines everything including the outcome.

  5. Shift your focus. If you are feeling small and un-empowered, become the champion of those less fortunate than yourself. All of a sudden you are empowered to help someone else rather than to focus on your own misfortune.

This last point was inspired by how she saw her husband Callie behave towards everyone else in the rebel camp once he had made up his mind to maintain a positive outlook on their situation.

If someone can be like this under such strained circumstances, we can all do so much more for ourselves and for others in our everyday lives.

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Issue 23


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