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Empowering People In Crisis
 

OBJECTIVES AND PROJECTS OF THE FOUNDATION

The main objective of the EPIC Foundation will be the management of various projects and initiatives aimed at assisting victims of rape and abuse, which will include women in shelters. Other ad hoc projects will also be undertaken to help people in crisis and support other charities.
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Turning Violation into an EPIC Victory
 
 
 
 

This is my story

Alta McMaster – Founder of the EPIC Foundation:
Encouraging People in Crisis

Introduction by Angelique du Toit:

When I heard Alta McMaster’s story, I found it difficult to merge this life-story with the woman I saw before me – she is dignified, confident and quietly ambitious. A woman who continues to spend her time doing everything she can to attempt in whatever way she can to reduce the trauma of rape victims, Alta doesn’t count the cost.

 
 She sows tirelessly and liberally, rallying the cause of the rape victim. She inspires other women to come on board, as well as corporates and charity organisations.  The use of social media to source donations and to request people to contribute personal toiletry items and underwear is a daily focus. These items are delivered to various victim empowerment centres and rapetrauma centres, so that every rape victim can leave feeling a little more dignified after the traumatic investigation of their plight. It is people like Alta, the people I call the unsung heroes of our nation, who make a daily difference to the lives that would otherwise be left unloved and untouched.This is a story of the bravery that is required to face the truth, take action, to stand tall and live life, determined to create a new pathway, to see the dawning of a new day, and to not lose heart, even when you feel you have no heart left.
 
 
 
 
 

I WILL NOT BE REDUCED

 
 
 
 
I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.
- Maya Angelou

Born in the early 60’s, I enjoyed the benefit of a stay-at-home Mom and a Dad who worked for the same company doing two jobs to support the family. Although we didn’t experience a life full of luxuries, we were always assured of our needs being met. The added bonus was the annual holidays at the beach, peace in the home and that life never really brought along any hardships. Just as I thought it should be.

I did not have an easy childhood though, due to health problems. I was born with a heart murmur so I could not energetically run around and play like the other children did. At the age of 12I developed serious thyroid problems, which was the start of long-term health issues. My schooling saw me through to matriculation and then on to commercial college. I found my very first job as a secretary in an insurance company. In time I moved on to another insurance firm as a secretary in the Human Resources and Training division, where I realised that the field of HR held a fond interest to me. Part of what attracted me to this position was that I could engage with people and ultimately help them find solutions to some of their problems which greatly appealed to me.

It was at this insurance company where I met my husband who was working for a building contractor at the time. There was an instant connection between us. We knew each other for a short time when we decided to get engaged – I was only 21. It was a shock to both my family and his. We had many conflicts to deal with and one of them being the English/Afrikaans language barrier and different cultures and mindsets.

Our relationship however was like a fairy tale – love at first sight and all of those wonderful things you read and dream about as a child. A year later we were married. We had to split our wedding service into one half being held in Afrikaans and one half in the English language, to make sure everyone was happy. Not that we minded of course, because we would have been happy if we were married half in Chinese and half in Swahili!

We moved into our first little flat – it had no stove – I could not cook, but we loved each other so much, nothing else really mattered. I then joined an oil company in the HR department to further my HR career and it was at this point that I decided to start part time studies to obtain a higher qualification. We were able to purchase a lovely property in the outlying suburbs of Johannesburg and built a beautiful home on it. It was exciting to move into the house we planned and designed together. The home held a special place in my heart. I desperately wanted to have children, but due to my thyroid problems, I struggled for 3 years to fall pregnant. I eventually fell pregnant with twins – we were totally thrilled. All went well for the first few months, but sadly at24 weeks I miscarried. I was devastated – no words could explain the hurt and pain I felt when I was told they were no longer alive. A month after the loss I was pregnant again! Full term arrived and I had a healthy baby girl – 4.3kgs at birth – a difficult birth needless to say, but all worth it. Life was amazing!

When I returned to work I changed companies and started with an audit firm. Here I could get more involved with the HR field, with the promise of a promotion after my first year and attractive on-going career prospects. I am still with this audit firm, 21 years later. The second child was soon on the way and a difficult pregnancy lay ahead, with me being in the hospital often with kidney problems due to the pregnancy. I became extremely anxious that I may lose this baby too. I am thankful that I gave birth to another gorgeous baby girl. I started playing out all the roles, as is so often required by women -Mother of two, working a full time job, completing my studies and managing a newly built home. My husband did not allow me to give up though. He was always there to encourage me and keep me pressing on. He even sat with me and helped me study until late the night before I wrote my Statistics exam – a subject I had some difficulty with. I passed with a distinction! I do not think I would have finished my studies had it not been for him encouraging me and pushing me to complete. I was really so grateful for having him by my side. Life was good; I had a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, a wonderful home with happy animals and my life felt very complete.

 
 
 
 
 

TRUST GOD

 
 
 
 

Trust God with your past and future and commit your present to his purpose. Then watch and see how God provides abundantly for you and through you, so that you can express the joy of the Lord and his Grace in your life.
- Author Unknown

The sequence of life-events that were to follow shrouded my life in what felt like a grey, clammy mist rolling in from the ocean. The sun was swallowed up in fog and relentlessly the waves overcame me - one wave of disappointment, followed by another of disbelief and by yet another of total shock. The experience left a trail of devastation, the destruction like that of the aftermath of a tidal wave. I always had a view of what my life’s path would be and I tried to plan according to that path as responsibly as I could. The problem with a tidal wave is that it doesn’t come with prior warning. In most instances there is no time to prepare.

It was shortly after the birth of my second daughter that my womanly intuition started to bother me. You may know that feeling of uneasiness; the quiet nudges, the little clues, all suggesting that things aren’t quite what they should be? But like most people do, I ignored it and hoped that things would feel right again. “Perhaps I should just give it time. Maybe I’m a little more tired than usual. Ah, it could even be that time of the month. That’s what it is!”

 
 
 
 
 

FACE THE REALITY

 
 
 
 

If you want to change a situation –
You first have to face the reality. Get out of denial.
-Angelique du Toit

What reason did I have in our happy home to feel suspicious? I must admit I did turn a blind eye to the ‘small things’ that happened from time to time. But that’s normal, isn’t it? There were however those gatherings at social events or the leisurely get-together at someone’s home, when the discussion would gravitate to marriage-moans, partner-problems and general discontent in a relationship. It usually went something like “How could she not have noticed anything different – surely she must have known?” “Could it be that loving someone so much and trusting with your whole heart can blind you to the most obvious of changes?” I do not for a moment feel guilty that I missed things which should have been obvious to me from the start – I loved my husband with everything that was within me.

The changes were gradual – but they were there. The little touches of affection disappeared, the words of affirmation were absent; the irritations crept in, followed by a stealthy aggression. He left his job with a plan to start his own business and I put the behaviour change down to the new demands and stress of that decision. “Will the real man I married please come back? Who is this person in our home? He looks the same as the man I loved and married all those years back, but what happened to his personality – he is like a total stranger!”

It started during 1999. He came to tell me that business was not going well and it was about to be liquidated. Just as I was gasping for air from the weight of that wave, the second wave crashed down on me. The bank was going to repossess our home, cars and all household contents in the next two weeks as he had signed all our earthly belongings as surety for his now failed business. Our policies were also signed over to the bank. We lost everything!
Packing up the girls and my personal items, I was left with no option but to move in with my Mom and Dad with my two girls. My husband stayed in a bachelor flat his Dad used when he came to Johannesburg for business. I desperately tried to grope my way out of this suffocating fog and regain clarity in my life. I approached the bank to see if I could get a pre-approved bond on my salary and thankfully an amount was approved that enabled me to purchase a small house, even though it was next to a petrol depot. My salary covered the bond and very little was left to put food on the table, let alone to cover other expenses. I found myself supporting a family of four on my own. As I was unable to get my employer to raise my salary to enable us to cope better, I started off with various hobbies and crafts and spent my weekends selling these items at crafters’ markets wherever I could to settle the never-ending bills.

 
 
 
 
 

EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS TEMPORARY

 
 
 
 

Darkness of the night or brightness of the day
Even sunrise is temporary, and so is sunset.
If things are good - enjoy it.
If things are bad – don’t give in to worry
because it won’t last forever either.
-Nubia Group

Everything within me longed for us to be settled again, but due to my husband’s bankruptcy a permanent job was proving to be a fading dream. The small handyman jobs he found here and there did not bring in much support. My daily tasks never tired of their demands and the nagging suspicions in my heart and my head could no longer be silenced. I started to sift through some of his things and I discovered a small plastic packet with white powder in his briefcase. As I took it out I could feel the blood drain from my head – I felt sick – I was quite sure it was cocaine. What was left of my world was about to be shattered into a million little pieces. He confessed. Cocaine and other drugs had taken away our home, bulldozed our business, it had invaded our lives and it didn’t play fair. Drug addiction respects no boundaries and takes nothing else into account, except to get its needs met – at any cost! I often walked in to our room to find him snorting cocaine on my dressing table and regularly the children were taken to my Mom so that they were not exposed to this. This was the man who had asked me to stop smoking before we got married, because he did not like it.

One night as we were driving together he erratically made a U-turn; shouting that he needs ‘powder’ and that he can’t wait any longer. He stopped at a petrol station where the Nigerian drug dealer came to my window and insisted on doing the ‘deal’ with me. My husband put the money in my hand and told me to do the deal. I was terrified, shaking all the way home. Still, I held onto the belief that he would change. That my real husband would return. And I was prepared to wait.

 
 
 
 
 

FAITH-LIFT

 
 
 
 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
- Isaiah 43:2, NKJV Bible

Then came the killer confession: For 12 years out of our 14-year marriage, he had been having sexual encounters with men. He was unashamedly bi-sexual. I was unashamedly devastated. How do I even begin to pick up these pieces? Nothing could ever have prepared me for the destruction of this tsunami. I needed to talk to someone. Who would believe me? Who could I trust? I tried calling his Dad believing that he would be someone who would listen and who could help me. When I did finally reach him he was unable to talk - he was otherwise occupied. He sounded unusually stressed. Yet another wave was about to come crashing down. It was the day that my father-in-law discovered he had cancer. At the same time my Dad was also critically ill in hospital with emphysema which he had been suffering from for some time. Both families were facing so much in their own lives, I couldn’t possibly load more on them at that time – it just would not have been fair. I decided to keep everything to myself and to make the best I could. It was not long before my Father-in-law passed away -- leaving a gaping hole in my life, as he was the one person I could always turn to for advice.

 
 
 
 
 

THE CALL TO BE STRONG

 
 
 
 

“Women are like teabags – they don’t know how strong they are
until they get into hot water”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Bravely pressing on through the storms of life, straining under the tempest and upheaval, all the while desperate to keep my head above the water, I didn’t even remotely anticipate the next tumultuous invasion in our lives. Two days after my father-in-law passed away, my two daughters and I were hijacked in our car right in front of my parents’ home. The hijackers forced us out of the car with a gun held against my head and another pointed at my children. I will never as long as I live forget the face on the other side of the barrel of the gun which was in my face. They then decided to force us back into the car. It was at this crazy point that I decided they can rather shoot and kill us than take us with them. My Mom saw the hijacking from the house, got a hold of her firearm and fired shots from behind the security gate. The hijackers were startled, which gave me a chance to grab my children and run, praying that God would keep us safe. It seemed that there was an invisible steel wall behind me and the girls. Not one bullet hit us. The hijackers drove the car down the street and crashed it into a truck, jumped out and ran away. God did indeed protect us and kept us safe.

 
 
 
 
 

GOD IS MY REFUGE

 
 
 
 

We live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all gods.
This I declare, that He alone is my refuge,my place of safety;
He is my God, and I am trusting Him.
For He rescues you from every trap and protects you from the fatal plague.
He will shield you with His wings.
They will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armour.
Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark anymore, nor fear the dangers of the day;
nor dread the plagues of darkness, nor disasters in the morning.
- Psalm 91:1-6, The Living Bible

My Father’s death followed this horrible event and I couldn’t help but think that the ordeal contributed to his death; knowing his daughter and his grandchildren were being held at gunpoint outside of his home and he was in a state of sheer helplessness. With everything that happened over such a short space of time, I went numb. I did not feel anything. Icould not cry. I could not feel sad. I felt nothing. I have never before felt so dead inside and in total despair. Even to my own surprise, when my drug-addicted husband offered me a snort of his cocaine, I thought, “What the hell? – life is just not worth the fight.” I continued using the drug for three blurry, dismal months.

I felt the nudge to follow up on my womanly intuition again. I yielded to it. Back to his briefcase I went. Lying brazenly before me was a simple newspaper advert. The Personal Column. Sexual Services. Men on men. My husband’s contact details! He was prostituting himself for drug money because he was continually stoned and could not find work. I confronted him with it and he once again unashamedly admitted his initiation and participation in this bizarre lifestyle. And what’s more, he was having “fun” doing it! Then the unthinkable happened! One of the “newspaper clients” found out he was married and offered him double if he could have me while my husband watched! I found myself semi-drugged and raped in my own home while my daughters were sleeping in the room next door! I knew exactly what happened the next morning, but was powerless to stop it. My zombie-like state returned, but it was not long before sanity finally prevailed.

The pain of the realisation that my children could possibly be the next victims of this man, their father, who would go to indescribable depths of depravity to satisfy a mindless craving, was the undeniable moment of truth for me. I however decided not to report it, to not tell anyone except our family doctor, about the horrific ordeal, and I put it in the back of my mind as something which never happened. Thank God that after several tests, and together with taking anti-retroviral drugs, I was given the all-clear in my body, but my mind struggled to pretend it never happened.

The separation was agreed to without a fight and divorce procedures soon followed, but the anxiety and the danger of a court order that allowed the children’s father to have access to the girls on a fortnightly basis nearly drove me out of my mind. I fought all the way and succeeded in ensuring that the children would not be allowed to sleep over.

I then went into revenge mode – what a mistake! You only end up hurting others and yourself even more. I played the dating game from the dungeon of my hurt and betrayal, wanting someone else to feel my pain too. The relationship lasted a few months and turned out to be a very intense and abusive relationship, with all the trademarks of possessiveness, jealousy, physical abuse, control and manipulation – demanding that I wear or not wear certain items of clothing. There was even a period of post-relationship stalking which left me uneasy and scared.

On the morning of 1 March 2001 my husband was due to fetch the girls, but didn’t show up.In fact he disappeared for a number of days. He didn’t answer my calls and since he lived in an isolated area, I was not about to go looking for him, assuming he would be at one of his ‘guys only-drug parties’. Finally, I called his brother to see if he could shed some light on the situation and I was met with uncontrollable shouting and screaming over the phone. The father of my children was found dead. I was accused by my brother-in-law of murdering him! He called the police to arrest me. The police told me the place was locked from the inside and drugs were found next to him, so it was obvious what the cause of death was, but it was not without bizarre twists and turns, strange phone calls, family hostilities and my own thoughts of suicide.

I was so desperate, so lonely, so hurt. I remember on one bleak day in my life sitting on the edge of my bed holding my 38 Special revolver, loading the bullets contemplatively - one by one, I just wanted to end it all. I had reached my limit. Holding the revolver to my head I was ready to pull the trigger – and then I remembered my two beautiful girls who had been through so much. What would they do without their Mother? I slowly lowered the revolver, knowing full well that without me they would not stand a chance of having any meaningful or hopeful future.

I could only take life day by day and I managed to get some money out of a group life policy I had with the firm I was working with. We had to put the money away in a trust for a period of time as I had debtors coming out of the woodworks, wanting to claim back their money, including my husband’s old “boyfriends” that were owed money. Our little house next to the petrol depot finally sold and it gave us a tidy little profit that became the nest egg to start over again. After Dad’s death Mom was alone when the trust paid out. Mom, the girls and I were able to move into a neat, spacious, and finally, peaceful home. Being the only breadwinner I needed to supplement my income. I discovered the direct selling industry which gave me a secure opportunity to build and manage my own small business. This income stream became a life-line and life was about to get very interesting.

 
 
 
 
 

WITH GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

 
 
 
 

I believe that with God all things are possible and without God
life can become impossible. I have learnt that He will never give me more
than I can handle. With Him by my side I am able to overcome all obstacles.
-Alta McMaster

“Whatever you cannot talk about is controlling you!” The words of Angelique du Toit in her seminar entitled, “Your Life, Your Business, Your Future”. As the realisation of this truth hit me like a lightning bolt, I sat there stunned in the silence that had controlled me for so many years. The denial, pushing the memories down deep into my subconscious and the pretense that my life’s experiences did not negatively affect me, was suddenly exposed. I simply had to acknowledge that the way I think about things, the way I react to certain events, in fact every moment of my life was based on my past experiences. I now knew that I needed to get these experiences out in the open. When we start taking responsibility for our life choices, new doors of opportunity begin to open, especially when we are aware of the possibilities that are an invitation to us all. A new opportunity was about to present itself.

A young, vibrant woman, aged just 24, entered my life in 2010. She is passionate about life – and uses her experience to assist other women in the aftermath of rape trauma. A choice she selflessly made as she herself was the victim of a senseless, horrific rape ordeal. Her outreach has been so effective and helpful, that a countrywide charity foundation has been successfully registered and established. It seemed that this opportunity to make a contribution was something God put on my path. I agreed to help her run her projects to help rape victims in the Gauteng region. Initially it started off small, but I was astonished and excited at how fast the projects have grown with the support of local communities, and more importantly how many women have been assisted because of this foundation. I feel the call to contribute in this area so strongly that I made the decision to give up my direct selling business and to put my energies and focus into helping others, knowing also how it has helped me process my own issues.

 
 
 
 
 

NEVER GIVE UP

 
 
 
 

The most important thing I have learnt from these experiences is that no matter what happens in your life, no matter how hopeless you feel, there is always a way out;
you just have to believe in yourself, trust in God and believe that everything in life
happens for a reason.
– And above all NEVER GIVE UP!
-Alta McMaster

If all the events did not happen in my life I would not be the person I am today and I would not be able to take up the opportunities I have to date.

We all have a path which was planned by God way before we were born; Life events happen to help shape us, to become who we were created to be and to direct the way we live our lives. We might not at the time understand the reason why things happen, but with the beauty of hindsight, I now understand. Who I was 12 years ago is so far removed from the woman I am today. I am quite simply not the same person.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you Hope and a Future”
- Jeremiah 29:11

Life has shaped me, changed me and moulded me into the form of a strong woman that has discovered her passion for, and purpose in life. Though it was a road strewn with heartache and pain, I am proud of overcoming the challenges and obstacles and consider this to be a true achievement in my life. I thank God every day for what He has done for me and I keep Him close to my heart!

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer.
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge”
- Psalm 18:2

I have risen from the ashes to become the person I was meant to be. In an inexplicable way I know now that God had a plan for me and He used every event and circumstance to form and chisel me into the woman I now am. I have accepted and have made peace with the things that have happened in my life and I am using these experiences to help others. I see myself as a source of blessing to many; because God has placed in me something others need and can benefit from. Living life the way I was meant to, and doing the work that I was meant to do, the work which I am passionate about and above all the work which God planned beforehand for me to do, is more rewarding than anything I have ever experienced. I have been able to reach so many people and I know that I have made a difference in their lives. A beautiful quotation that has often encouraged me reads:

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it!
In happy moments, praise God. In difficult moments, seek God.
In quiet moments, worship God. In painful moments, trust God.
In every moment thank God.

Life may not be picture perfect, but I have so much to be grateful for. My girls have grown into lovely ladies and they are both striving to make a success of their lives. They have also learnt to leave the past behind and to make the best of the future God has given them. I am very proud of these two gifts in my life.
I have overcome huge obstacles; obstacles I never thought I would ever conquer. Having come this far, I know I can face any challenge in life. I no longer have a fear of the unknown or a fear of taking up new challenges. I believe in myself now and I don’t depend on anyone else to make this a reality in my life. Above all, my faith in knowing that God is with me always, gives me peace which defies explanation. When others might have a negative opinion or are unkind, I have learned that it is best to ignore what others say about you and how they treat you – it’s what you believe about yourself that is more important. This is a strong message I have imparted to my children.
God gave you this life which is special and precious and He has a plan for you. His plan does not include giving up. Take up the challenges, the difficulties and the heartaches and work through them, because you will be a stronger person at the end of it. It is sometimes hard to believe this or see it at the beginning or even while working through it all, but you must never give up. When you reach the point of breakthrough and you compare who you wereand who you have become through what you have discovered about yourself, you will understand why you had to walk a particular path. You always hear people saying they ‘have gone through difficulties’, you never hear them say they ‘got stuck in the middle of difficulties’. There is always a way through, with the help of God!

The deep passion I have to provide help and encouragement to people in crisis in our beautiful nation has led me to register my own foundation, proudly called the EPIC Foundation – an acronym for Empowering People in Crisis. The Foundation was registered on 24 April 2013. Having been involved in this type of work I have seen a lot of areas in our community where the needs are dire. My goal is to involve as many people in our country to reach out and to make a difference to the rainbow nation of South Africa. If anyone wants to support, get involved or know more about the EPIC Foundation, do read more on this website.

EPIC is making news! I was nominated and selected for Hero of the Month of June through Primedia Broadcasting’s Lead SA initiative.This was a huge privilege to me. Together with this I had the opportunity of sharing my personal story with the Gauteng community on Radio 702, 94.7, the Star Newspaper and Pretoria News. My story was not an easy one to tell, being a rape survivor myself, but I realised by talking about what happened to me I could be an encouragement and help to others out there who might be dealing with the same difficulties in their lives.

You may not always understand the route, the process, the direction or the ultimate picture that was and which is being formed in your life, but it is a choice to trust the process. Every happening in our life is part of the training process. You will be walking in the fulfilment and joy of what you were ultimately created to do.

Many people live their lives with their secrets tightly locked and hidden away, and all the while they are wasting away. What we cannot talk about controls us to such an extent that our life-decisions are altered, our emotions become erratic and unreasonable and the gift of life, as it was meant to be lived is lost

You too can make the powerful decision to turn your violations into victories!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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