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Charlene Sunkel (South Africa)

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

Charlene Sunkel - The Empathy & Hope Project

For me the opposite of HOPE is DISEMPOWERMENT, if you are disempowered it is difficult if not impossible to see or find hope in any situation.

I recall back in the early years when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I was told that I would never be able to work, lived on my own, make my own decisions, or achieve at anything in life. This reckless response to my diagnosis shattered all hope for a life and promising future.

I lived a hopeless life for many years until I happened to cross paths with people who believed in me and my abilities and who gave me opportunities in life – they gave me hope and with that hope I became empowered.

Everything I was told of what I will never be able to do, I am doing – I work as the Founder and CEO of the Global Mental Health Peer Network and live an independent and successful life. Empowering someone to take change of their own life and providing them with the tools and evidence that recovery is possible, hope is created.


Charlene shared their story as part of The Empathy & Hope Project, an immersive art exhibition on the impact of our social environments on the health of our minds.

Chapter 2 of this traveling exhibition was hosted in Durban, South Africa from 12 March - 03 May 2020, featuring photographic artworks by Thabiso Sekgala, Lindokuhle Sobekwa, Witness Change & a Refugee Centre in Durban.


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