Natashia Portrag, left, Rachael Balakisten, her mother, Rosie Appana, Sagren Govender and Moulana Tariq outside the house on Saturday.
Natashia Portrag, left, Rachael Balakisten, her mother, Rosie Appana, Sagren Govender and Moulana Tariq outside the house on Saturday.

Home revamp changes life of family living without electricity for 23 years

By Chanelle Lutchman Time of article published Jul 30, 2020

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Durban - WHAT started off as a home revamp in honour of Mandela Day soon turned into a second chance at life for a Phoenix family.

Two weeks ago, Natashia Portrag, a comedienne, announced that she had teamed up with the Phoenix police station and Phoenix Crisis Centre to revamp a two-bedroom home in Rose Manor in Trenance Manor. The group gave themselves 10 days to complete the make-over for the family of nine. On Saturday, the home was handed back to the Govender family.

The stick-on floor tiles were replaced with floorboards and the lounge, which had three worn-out couches some of the family slept on, now has two beds and a television. Both bedrooms have new beds and cupboards and the kitchen has new cupboards.

Sagren Govender, the homeowner, and his family became emotional when they were taken on a tour.

The family has not had electricity for 23 years after Govender lost his job as a waiter when the restaurant he worked at closed - and he could not afford to pay the utility bills.

However, thanks to donations from a number of sponsors, the family’s outstanding utilities bill of about R80 000 was paid.

Govender said he stood alone in the kitchen on Saturday night. He could not believe how a kind gesture had turned their lives around.

“Our kitchen had dark marks on the walls because of the smoke from the gas cylinder that we used to cook food on, but it now has a fresh coat of paint. I also thought about the mornings my wife and mother-in-law would get up early to boil water outside in the cold so I could bath and go for job interviews. Now I can sort myself out.”

The renovated kitchen. The family were also given pots, utensils and groceries. Picture; Sibonelo Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)

His wife, Rachael Balakisten, 57, and her mother, Rosie Appana, 76, used to boil the water on the outside gas cylinder.

Portrag and the Phoenix Crisis Centre also registered a home-improvement business for Govender and gave him tools and a cellphone to conduct his business.

Govender already has three jobs lined up.

“I can now do any job, from gardening and placing tint on windows, to painting, plumbing and electrical work.”

Portrag said they did not want to give the family a new home but to equip them with the tools to sustain themselves.

“We wanted to give them a second chance at life,” said Portrag. “We wanted to give Sagren back his dignity and to help him to care for his family. In 10 days, we worked tirelessly at the home. Our sponsors really helped us. One sponsor drove from Johannesburg just to put in the floorboards.”

She said a day after the big reveal, the family sent her photographs of them watching TV.

“It was so emotional. After 23 years, these people watched TV in their home. This is something we take for granted but we don’t realise how something small like that makes a big difference for others.”

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