Thanks to the tireless efforts of three women, today Illungelo Labadala village is a thriving community, writes Marchelle Abrahams.
It takes a village to raise a child. Never has this proverb been more true as the scourge of HIV and Aids rips families apart, leaving children orphaned and alone.
Illungelo Labadala village in Amaoti, Inanda, is a shining example of how one organisation refuses to let this sad reality become the new normal. Established in 2003, the project was a collaboration between The Association for the Aged (Tafta) and community based organisation, Illungelo Labadala.
It is unique as it was primarily built as an old-age village where residents care for Aids orphans and integrate them into their “family”.
Meet the women who helped build a village…
Now 80 years old, Elizabeth Mbongwe still drives from her home in Umlazi to attend committee meetings at Amaoti. It is this very drive and dedication that has seen the Ilungelo Labadala project bear fruit.
The former nurse, who is the co-founder of the project, approached Tafta (together with her friend and colleague Victoria Mtshali) in 1999 to bring attention to the plight of the elders in the Amaoti village.
“Victoria was pensioned earlier than I was, but she told me that when I retired I had to come join her because she was being really affected by how younger generations, especially the grandchildren, were abusing the old gogos for their pension monies.
“We met with the Board of management at Tafta then CEO Margie Smith, and she became actively involved in coming into the area to begin helping the pensioners,” recalls Mbongwe.
It was then that Tafta became involved and began working with Mbongwe and Mtshali to build a home for the elderly and destitute children.
Effortlessly donating her time to worthy causes, Theodora Makhanya spent 24 years dedicated to helping the aged in her community for little or no pay.
She was given the opportunity to work on the Illungelo Labadala project where she began work as a carer and managed the project’s kitchen. She fondly recalls her first success case; “There were two gogos I knew who were staying together in the community. The one had an alcoholism problem and was severely abusing the second one for her money. I was able to bring the abused gogo to the Tafta care facility and it felt so good to be able to assist in that way”.
Now in her early 60s, she still remains an active member of Illungelo, cooking meals for the children and elders. “Being a part of the project has given us the structure to formally assist so many people in this community. I will continue assisting for as long as I can.”
“I came to Tafta because I was always passionate about care of the elderly and although my qualification was in teaching, I was drawn to this position from the start,” says qualified educator Bukisani Phakati, who started at Tafta in 2000 as a social auxiliary worker.
She was appointed and made responsible for Illungelo’s aftercare programme. One of her major concerns was the issue of child abuse: “We became aware of it as we investigated and Tafta played a huge role in bringing those issues under the spotlight in that community.”
Working daily and caring for 36 children, Phakati played teacher, mother and carer.
“It was exhausting, but I remember it being the most fulfilling period of my life. We even put together holiday programmes twice a year and got sponsorships to take the children on trips to the city and other places they had never been to before.”
* To learn more about the Illungelo Labadala project, contact Tafta at 031 332 3721 or email [email protected]