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Cape Town - Although Florence Sotomela, a teacher’s assistant from Site B, Khayelitsha, lost everything in a shack fire, she got up and went to work the next day. All she had left were the clothes on her back.
“I was too heartbroken to do anything else. I did the only thing I could that would help me cope - I went to work,” Sotomela, 30, said.
“After the fire I went over to my older sister’s place in Town Two, Khayelitsha, and she let me stay with her and lent me a pair of jeans to wear to work.”
Sotomela said she had been a backyarder in Site B for the past two years in a shack she shared with her 10-year-old son, Sipho, and her younger sister, Sinazo.
The fire broke out last Wednesday, the day she and her colleagues at Herzlia Constantia Primary and Pre-Primary School had their end-of-year function.
“I got off the taxi and saw a lot of smoke... by the time I got to my street I saw that the flames were coming from our yard. Everything was in flames... I just stood there. It was like all the energy was being drained from me,” she said.
“After firefighters put out the fire, we went to go stay with my older sister and I haven’t been back [to Site B] since.”
Sotomela said the cause of the fire was still unknown.
Jos Horwitz, principal at Herzlia Constantia, said the school had not expected Sotomela to be at work after what had happened to her home.
Horwitz said Sotomela had walked in on Thursday morning and started crying. The school had decided to appeal to teachers and parents to assist her.
Horwitz said that although it was school holidays, there had received a good response from parents after e-mails were sent out.
“People have already donated two beds, some food and clothing and we are still getting more things,” she said.
Horwitz said Sotomela had been working at the school for two years and had started out as a cleaner.
“But she is so good with children, especially the young ones, that we made her one of our teacher’s assistants.
“How brave, how resilient is this amazing woman as she set out for school the following day?” Horwitz said.
Sotomela said she was all the more sad because the clothing she had bought for her son to wear over the Christmas holidays were also lost in the fire.
She would also not be able to go to the Eastern Cape to see her extended family this year.