University of Cape Town: Handcrafted mosaic bench graces haven at Hanover Park clinic site

Rest and respite have been in short supply in a rollercoaster year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But in Hanover Park, where the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) is based, a beautifully crafted mosaic bench now graces the garden at their service site. The bench was gifted by the Ebrahim family, a South African family now living in Canada.

It’s part of a haven the project has created for pregnant women and girls and new mothers who visit the facility, and who often face common mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression.

The PMHP’s service site is based at the Midwife Obstetric Unit in the Hanover Park Community Health Centre. Here, the team – led by Associate Professor Simone Honikman – recently hosted a small celebration (following strict health protocols) to ‘unveil’ the bench and honour the staff who provide much-needed mental healthcare to new mothers and mothers-to-be.

Working against huge odds in terms of securing ongoing funding to sustain the site – and a growing need among this group of vulnerable women, in one of Cape Town’s poorest communities – the team has filled a vital gap for almost 10 years. Through the site, hundreds of women have access to essential, evidence-based, high-quality mental healthcare.

Staff from the obstetric unit and health centre work with the PMHP counsellors to provide mental health-promotion activities, screening, counselling, facilitated referrals to a large network of organisations and services, case management, and follow-up care. These services are integrated into routine maternity care on site, said Professor Honikman.

Monitoring and evaluation procedures have shown how much these services help women receiving care, despite facing extreme socio-economic adversity, she added.

Challenges and gratitude

“As 2021 draws to a close and we reflect on the many challenges we have faced, the staff of the PMHP are grateful for what we have achieved at our service site,” said Honikman.

“The new, magnificent mosaic bench in our garden at the site has been a great joy and refuge; for us, facility staff, and the women we serve.”

Honikman added, “The generous gift from the Ebrahim family showcases the talents of Lovell Friedman and her team of mosaic artists, who have conceptualised the bench in the spirit of what the PMHP represents.”

A wide range of supporters and partners of the service were thanked for their commitment to the organisation, and celebrated with a performance of traditional songs and speeches.

It was also an opportunity for the team to highlight the PMHP’s innovations and achievements during the pandemic. Among these is the recent presentation of a 2021 UCT Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Global Citizenship to Liesl Hermanus, the PMHP’s clinical services coordinator.

The prestigious award recognised Hermanus’s commitment to the Hanover Park community, in the way she has provided essential support and leadership during difficult times.