SoulTalk: Moving Women From Tragedy to Triumph!
Her ex- husband kidnapped their two youngest children after going through a divorce for seven years, taking with him her only home and her money. For many, that would be the end of the road: it would see them shut down for life.
For Andrea Gutwirth, though, it became the beginning of a new road: one on which she chose, through her pain, to help other women through their most difficult time in life.
“When you are facing a crisis, you don’t know who to talk to or what to do next! You feel isolated, overwhelmed, alone and confused and on the edge of life,” Andrea told us, explaining why she was determined to be that one to whom others could turn. After managing the hoops of suffering in her own life with many mistakes and lessons, Andrea decided to put together a professional, personalized system to help others triumph over seemingly impossible circumstances. She even went back to study to receive all the credentials necessary to begin her mission and passion in life!
Ten years’ interaction with lawyers, legal aid, psychologists, judges, and social services in Hong Kong gave Andrea the foundation and systems for SoulTalk: a Hong Kong local registered charity serving women in emotional and relationship crisis for the last 16 years. SoulTalk reaches thousands throughout the year, offering a hotline, individual counselling, educational programmes, support groups, resources and ongoing assistance in order to see women to regain their life back.
Women generally call SoulTalk’s popular Chinese and English hotline as their first point of contact, searching for guidance, counselling, or just a listening ear. “We do not give advice,” Andrea says. “We share options and choices which help women make better decisions for their own life because their awareness and knowledge begins to grow. Even just to be on the other end of that phone for them can really make a big difference.”
Her focus is “being solution oriented and results driven,” Andrea says. SoulTalk professionally and personally cares for a woman’s particular struggle. “That can be separation, divorce, custody, finance issues, loss of job, an affair, abandonment, abuse, physically and emotionally, loss of a loved one and accidents. There are a lot of issues which can strip a woman of her structure in life.”
SoulTalk also offers a Loving Home residence where women can live temporarily as they heal. Provided in 2002 by a Chinese family, the Loving Home can accommodate up to 20 women who are given meals, counselling, educational programmes, support groups, workshops and other assistance that helps them feel and do better. SoulTalk works with the local community which makes up 90% of their clientele, however there are another 12 nationalities that also seek SoulTalk’s services. The staff are professionals, fluent in Chinese and English, and understand the sensitivities and confidentiality necessary to work with women in crisis.
When the Loving Home began, Andrea knew furnishing it would be one of many challenges ahead. She knew of Crossroads and our work donating goods to NGOs in the community.
“It was a very natural call for me to make,” Andrea recalls. “It was wonderful to work with Crossroads: just to be able to use the magnificent furniture and make this into the Loving Home that it is. I don’t know what I would have done without Crossroads.”
The furniture proved an exact fit for the needs, matching right down to the preferred colour scheme. The residents are struck by the comforting feeling of a home when they enter: a sense of peace, here, in the midst of struggle.
Today, SoulTalk continues to offer its services to the women of Hong Kong and is in such demand that it operates at maximum capacity. They even provide an accompanying service to places, such as a lawyer’s office, that women feel too overwhelmed to handle on their own. SoulTalk also offers a referral system so that if other professionals are needed, these can be introduced immediately.
SoulTalk is a complete resource centre and the only one of its kind here in Hong Kong.
Andrea’s mission and passion are powerful in their understatement: she wants to see these women, like herself, move “from tragedy to triumph.” Crossroads is delighted to partner with SoulTalk and the women whose lives are transformed through it.