I am privileged. My family is privileged. My children have attended good schools with well-qualified teachers and they are flourishing in their post-school lives with doors opening to them from many directions. I have no fear for their futures.
Recently I visited the Masiphumelele Community Day Care Centre with Mziyanda Mphikwa (Mzi for short) who has just taken over its management. The school is sadly in need of equipment. The building needs attention. There are 72 children attending – but most of the parents are unable to pay for their care. The three “teachers” are untrained and unpaid – local women looking after the children through the kindness of their hearts. There are no funds to feed the children at school and, as many of them arrive hungry, the situation is dire. What doors will open for these children? What futures lie ahead of them?
Every now and then one meets people who really leave a mark. Mzi is just one such person. I have spent time with him before and have never come away without feeling awed by his sense of commitment and responsibility towards his community. For a 24 yr old he is mature beyond his years. His greatest wish for the Masi Day Care Centre is that it will be a “safe environment where there is a flow of education so that the children can keep growing as responsible people who know their purpose of being here on earth”.
Mzi also heads the Homeless People’s Project in Masiphumelele. One of their projects is to start subsistence gardens. At the Masi Day Care Centre they have prepared beds for veges, well-composted and laid out over a sizeable expanse of land, with the intention of using the veges grown to feed the children. As soon as the weather cools and the wind abates and the funds come in – from where??? – to buy the seeds and seedlings the garden will be planted.
Their garden in Noordhoek on more than a hectare of land has come to nought as the moles and the mossies and every other vege-loving critter feasted on the cabbage, spinach, potatoes and turnips grown. The Dept of Agriculture has provided extensive funding for the irrigation system, watertank and gardening equipment which the The Homeless Project is now moving over to the Day Care Centre garden, but Mzi hopes to revive the Noordhoek garden, planting herbs – for sale, for funds.
Another concern of Mzi’s is the Women’s Initiative under the umbrella of the Homeless People’s Project which is currently organising a sewing project. With the support of The Living Way women of the community will be taught sewing skills with the intention of their creating business enterprises for themselves and the community and passing these learned skills on to others. Needed: unused sewing machines in working order and people willing to transfer their talent in sewing to these enthusiastic ladies.
Mzi has set up a Community Development office outside of which is the recycling centre, a private enterprise. Two of the local men have been collecting bottles from the local shebeens – the mound of bottles in this 5x5m or so plot came up to my waist – apparently a week ago it would have reached my shoulders. Residents drop of their bottles here too. Seven or eight great bales of bottles broken by Mr Thomas and his colleague stood outside awaiting collection. Mzi would like to see a production line going making glasses from the recycled bottles to sell to tourists and residents alike. Once again the issue is money – where to find the funds to buy the cutting machines to set the business up.
The Community Development office is there to help people deal with issues such as the
acquisition of ID documents and social grants, the writing up of CVs and the taking up of concerns to municipal, governmental and local structures. The residents using these services pay a small fee for them. Mzi does not believe in giving people something for free as “you are then putting yourself into a position where people can take advantage of you.”
A big challenge is that the office still needs to be connected to a Telkom line. Mzi would like to have an internet connection so that people can look for jobs via the internet. But….the office is operating without funds. A budget has been submitted to the City Council and hopefully some of these challenges will be overcome.
Despite what Mzi has to say about giving people something for free, there are times and situations when goods and money freely given go a long way to easing the burden of people living under the yoke of poverty; and the burden of those unpaid dedicated people working selflessly to try to make things better for their fellow beings.
By helping to set up subsistence farming projects, by donating educational toys, books, training courses, sewing machines, skills, seedlings…. we who are privileged enough to be able to be reading this in the comfort of our own well-stocked homes will be helping to open doors for people who at the moment stare at four bare walls and a door to more of the same.
If you have skills to offer, talents to share or goods to donate to enable and assist the Homeless Poeple Project’s endeavours contact Mzi on 084 658 1939.