Scene v: Our First Goodbye


The women and children who live in the Safe House do so while they recuperate and try to gain new skills to bring back to their lives once they have fully recovered. Many of the women stay in the Safe House between four and six months. Upon arriving at the Safe House, the team decided it would be best to not ask how long everyone had already been there in order to avoid touching upon a sensitive topic. However, it means we have no idea who has been there the longest, and who will be leaving when.

Cast of Characters

Ti.: A resident at the Safe House with two sons. She had reached her graduation of the program and was going to stay with family. She had a welcoming smile and a beautiful voice.

Kh.: Ti.’s two year old son, who did not yet speak English, but loved hugs from anyone, and was always smiling.

WPI Safe House Team


We have just come in from working outside. We are hot and tired from moving the large brush pile as well as cleaning out the gutters hanging on the roof. The team finds Ti., one of the first women we met at the Safe House. We have a tight bond with her as she was one of the first women to really open to us and treat us like family. Her face is filled with excitement as she prepares to share some big news with us.


Today was the last day for Ti., one of the women at the safe house. She was arguably one of the women closest to us. She invited us into her home and made us feel as though we were part of her family. She opened up to us in a way the other women did not. We learned that she was a beautiful singer, she sent us off with a goodbye song. We fell in love with her children. One of which, Kh., was a constant joy, always asking for hugs and to be picked up. For her to be able to raise two children, one three years old and the other nine months, all on her own shows a dedicated woman and a courageous mother.

The experience today of saying goodbye has made us realize that we may have to say goodbye to all the women we have come to know so well by the time our stay is over. The women only have four months here and as we were not comfortable asking them when they arrived, we do not know how long we have with our newfound friends. Today has given us a glimpse into the difficulties that saying goodbye will present. Leaving the safe house at the end of our stay will be a painful goodbye for all of us and we know that it will be like leaving home all over again.

Actions and Observations

We knew that the van was outside of the Safe House to pick us up, so we cleaned up our work for the day and grabbed our backpacks, waving to Mama Pilisani. We then walked over to Ti., whose eyes had hints of excitement and sadness when we asked for clarification on what was happening. She described to us that her time at the Safe House was over, and she was going to stay with family. We told her how much we would miss her, and Kh. spread his arms to be picked up for another hug. We took a few pictures, and then handed Kh. over to his loving mother and took one final photo of them together. Kh. squealed with happiness when he saw the still frame of his own face on Sam’s camera, and Jon asked if we could hear her sing one more time. The first time we sat with the women Ti. shared her amazing talent and sang us a song which gave us all goose bumps. This time, she was much less shy, and said she had a special song for us. She sang lyrics that described the friendship we had built and then we wished her the best of luck and waved goodbye.

Notes for Future Scenes

It is a sad to say goodbye to someone we connected deeply with so quickly. Through the sorrow, however, it is important to keep in mind the purpose of the Safe House. The leaving of a member is actually an event that should be celebrated. The recovery and reintegration into society is the goal of Sizakuyenza and instilling the strength in the women to do just that can be seen as a tremendous success. The actions we will take have the intention of allowing for recovery, which intrinsically leads to the women moving out. We can keep our heads up and stay positive because although it may seem as losing a great organization member, it should be viewed as the world gaining a strong and inspirational woman.

Reflection and Learning (By Sam)

I spent today alternating between working and playing with Kh., a two-year old boy with the brightest smile I have ever seen. He was shy the first few times we saw him, but spent today soaking up our attention as he ran from person to person, full of hugs and smiles. In Ti., I see everything that the safe house is trying to do for the women who come there, she is a loving mom, a hard worker, and a poised and eloquent woman. She also has a stunning voice, she amazed us when she sang on one of our first days at the safe house, and I found myself crying as I listened to her sing a farewell to us today.

I think all along the way, we knew that there would be women coming and going from the safe house during our short time there. In fact, we are entirely purposed on empowering these women during their stay so that they can go on, to family and new jobs and a chance to live life knowing how much they are valued. Although we have only been working at Sizakuyenza for a little over a week, I feel a deep care for each of the women and children we have met. I think that is what makes it so hard to say goodbye.

Each woman that comes to the safe house has a story. I wish that I could have the opportunity to know more of Ti.’s. What were the circumstances that brought her to the safe house? How has she changed since coming? Where will she go? What bright future does she have in store? Will we ever see her again? All these questions ran through my mind as she sang, but the lyrics of the song she had chosen floated above them all…

“Shining like a star across my sky, just like an angel off a page

You have appeared into my life, I feel like I’ll never be the same…”

Ti. has a story that probably includes more strength, resilience, and hope than I will ever have. We have only had the opportunity to be a part of that story for a little over a week. It would be false and pretentious of me to say that our short time of knowing Ti. and her beautiful children has had much to do with their recovery at Sizakuyenza. But her song reminded me of the change that we are actually making in people’s lives, even just in a small way. Just listening to her sing, I can see that she is stronger than I ever could be, and Kh. is so full of joy you would never think he has experienced abuse or trauma. I can only hope that Ti. and her sons can continue to grow and thrive despite what they have been through, as a result of the help they have been given at Sizakuyenza.

At times the work that we are doing feels small. A string of writing assignments, group meetings and yard work do not seem like they could have that much of an impact. But seeing a woman and her children ready to leave the safe house today, having been equipped with the support they needed to recover from such traumatic experiences, I was reminded of the significance of the work that the safe house does. And this makes me feel so honored to have the opportunity to be working with them, and to have known Ti. and Kh. even for the short time that we did.

Scene vi >>