As 2009 heralded the end of my two year contract with the Cancer Association, I embarked on a wonderful new journey. A newspaper editor and I had a lively discussion about charity and charitable work.
We both agreed that if one is paid to do something, it cannot constitute true voluntary or charitable work. What followed is a journey bordering on the miraculous. I registered a public benefit organisation, which is registered with the taxman, and issue donation invoices to donors.
I chose the name Phediša, a Sepedi word meaning: Live and let others live.
The first months of 2010 was spent visiting rural communities, looking for a project where I felt there was real need and no window-dressing and true volunteerism.
I also lost a best friend, who could not understand that I was willing to work for no monetary benefit whatsoever. She was seeking gainful employment. I miss her, but there is a season and reason for everything.
I visited eighteen care centres in the southeastern part of Limpopo. My initial visits where by appointment to get to know people and their projects. Thereafter a second round of visits were undertaken unannounced.
I was heartbroken to witness the poverty, and angered by the audacity of adults to window dress projects, get donations which are pocketed for own survival. Sounds a lot like the corruption we witness daily in 2018.
One Drop In Centre, thank God, was different. The Letlanthene Drop In Centre is situated in Persekbult, the poorest ward in the Polokwane municipality.
My second visit was over lunch time. Bridget and her volunteers (mostly grannies or gogos on pension) where cooking on open fires in the blistering sun. When lunchtime approached, more than hundred children came snaking across the veld. The meal at the centre the only one for the day for most of these children.
I left in tears after witnessing a young boy taking his plate of food, only eating a quarter of the plate of rice and chicken, and quietly walking around a corner to scrape the rest of the food into a plastic back and feverishly pack it into his frayed bookcase. Bridget found me and quietly said he had brothers at home , no parents. HIV had decimated his family.
After another meeting with Bridget and her team at the Letlanthene Drop In Centre, we agreed that I would assist and mentor the group, specifically to raise funds and ensure sustainability of the centre. O what a journey! It is nearly ten years and my and my family are richer for the journey with these incredible women.
In December of 2010 Bridget called me. She could barely speak. A freak wind storm had flattened the sink shack in which the centre was housed. Instead of assisting the group, members of the community carries of pots, pans, chairs, even sheets of sink. Poverty is an unreasonable animal.
We put our heads together and from that day, inch by inch, day by day, a miracle unfolded. The kgoshi (headman) was a lovely woman who understood the value of what Letlanthene was doing for her impoverished people. She donated a fenced piece of land on which a foundation of a house was already built.
So 2011 heralded a new journey for the group. We managed to get new chairs and pots and plates and cutlery from Makro. The local radio station helped us get two Wendy houses!
I approached the local KFC franchise to submit a request for Add Hope support. Glory be! We received R 70 000! Letlanthene was stabilising and growing! I cannot describe the utter joy to drive to the centre and look Bridget and the team in the eye. God is good all the time.
Then, November 2011, while I was looking after my mother-in-law, and Letlanthene was planning a Christmas party, a wind storm came along again…the study hall was left roofless.
My husband and daughter said, no Christmas gifts for our family – we bought sheets of corrugated iron and while the Christmas party was in full swing, the roof was rebuilt!
In 2012 KFC gave their second grant. And some surprises were is store for the donor and group alike. The ladies had managed to get some Lotto funding and a proper kitchen and pantry was built. A borehole was sunk, electricity was installed. KFC came to visit and add their advertising board.
Since then, KFC became involved by painting the homeroom, holding fun days for the children. And every year the grant increased incrementally.
Over the years the Add Hope campaign has donated over R 650 000 to ensure that the Letlanthene Drop In Centre survives and thrives. My family and staff have had first hand experience in true volunteerism. We have bee able to assist with fridges, computers, fuel money, electricity. Ensured that 100% of the Add Hope funds was put towards food!. An amazing amount of meals are made annually.
This year was the first year that the ladies in charge after Bridget sadly passed away a few years ago, Sarah and Regina, completed their Add Hope application, without Phediša as intermediary.
We have just received notice that R 96 000 has been granted for 2019! My mentor role has come to an end. The Letlanthene bird has grown its wings. My prayer and wishes for them: ” Fly off, and thrive! May God bless you greatly. Love always.”
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