Six months ago, Tamaryn Rhode had never even thought about getting married, having had to rehabilitate and reintegrate after more than a decade of living on the streets in the city centre.
But last Thursday, she sat, a ball of nerves in a white dress and red roses woven into her hair, waiting for her husband-to-be, Severico Walters, to arrive at the Central Methodist Mission church to pledge his love to her in front of friends and family.
Even through the nerves, she couldn’t stop the giggles escaping as her friends and family fussed and gasped at how beautiful a bride she was.
Her mother Geraldine arrived in a red dress, and gave a little twirl. “This is the first time I have ever worn a dress”, she said.
Geraldine had also recently reunited with her family and is living with her sister in Beacon Valley after 20 years on the streets.
“My sister died and I went to her funeral, and my sister, who is still alive, said I must come to live with her. I am living at home for a month now and doing well. I still come to town every day, but I go home every night to my family.”
She was proud of Tammy, she said.
“She had a tough life. She was on the streets and she changed her life. This is also the first child I give away to get married. Tammy has a sister, and her brother died on the streets as a baby.”
Tammy’s aunt, Ganeefah Moses, who took in Geraldine, said Tammy grew up in Beacon Valley and was a very bright girl. “She went to Beacon Hill Secondary School, but then things took a turn for the worse because she got involved with the wrong crowd.”
She said Tammy then wandered the streets of the city centre, where her mom was for over 10 years, before she had her son, Rushan, who is now two years old.”
This is when Tammy decided to join the programme at Khulisa Social Solutions, a city centre-based non-profit, social upliftment organisation.
The organisation’s Jesse Laitinen said Tammy had grown so much while part of the programme. “She is more mature, she has work ethic and strong interpersonal skills. She is a wonderful person, our super star.
Jesse said Tammy now works full-time at the Streetscape Sandwich Saloon, a small gourmet sandwich business in the city centre which employs people who form part of the programme. The employees of the sandwich saloon are trained by renowned chef, Jason Whitehead.
Tammy also works at the Streetscape Gardens near Fruit and Veg City and at Trafalgar High School. “Working full time is a measure of how well they are doing, as most street people are only able to work a few hours a day. It takes some time to get used to responsibility. Tammy is doing so well.”
Severico had been a regular visitor to Ms Moses home, and has been described as a “respectable young man who had a positive influence over her life”. Ms Moses said she was very happy for her niece and her sister for the progress they had made.
A nervous Tammy and Severico exchanged vows in a ceremony performed by Gregory Andrews in front of family, friends – and some strangers. The couple were escorted to the Company’s Garden in a sponsored white Mercedes Benz. There they took some pictures before heading to the reception, held at the Streetscape Garden near Fruit and Veg City.
Ms Laitinen said this had bee the second wedding in the programme. Last year, Jolene and Mogamat Jasmine also married at the Central Methodist Mission church, and moved home with their three children.
“The programme tries to fill in gaps of family. Sometimes the people on the programme don’t have the things we take for granted. We want to try to make more weddings possible in a year, so we will figure it out from here.”
She thanked the Renewal Institute for sponsoring Tammy’s manicure and pedicure, and the community for sponsoring the dress, food, make-up and gifts.
Tammy and Severico, meanwhile, were at a loss for words, only able to tell the CapeTowner: “We’re excited.”