Cape Town - Former drug dealer, now missionary and humanitarian, Charmaine Josephs, dubbed the Mother Teresa of Lavender Hill, is blessing 650 children in her community with Easter joy this Monday.
Josephs, 61, has bought 650 Easter eggs and vetkoek, tuna and party packets for underprivileged children from the streets of Lavender Hill.
Since 2007, Josephs has been dedicated to making Easter special for children who do not know the joy of receiving a chocolate egg to celebrate the holy festivities.
Josephs, who went back to school in 2009, never had the experience of getting an Easter egg as a child.
It is for this reason that Josephs places school clothing on the backs of children in need, fills their stomachs and treats them with Easter eggs.
In 1999, Josephs was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison for dealing in drugs.
Josephs, who was once married to a gang leader, used to hide drugs inside her children’s school clothes.
In 2007, Joseph reformed and became a born-again Christian. She has travelled extensively, as far as Germany, to do missionary work. This includes visiting local prisons where she has shared her life story.
During her travels Josephs was baptised in the Jordan River and visited Israel.
When she reformed, Josephs carried out a journey of reconciliation in her community, asking families to forgive her for the homes and lives she destroyed in her past life.
She currently works at a Christian charity shop.
Josephs’s home is a place where children can get a hot meal.
The place where she once sold drugs is now a haven where hundreds of litres of food made with love is shared.
“I have been doing this since 2007, and before that in my past life and that was from the wrong money, drug money that I was using,” she said.
“Every Easter and Christmas I would make 650 party packets and provide school clothing for children in need and this year I received sponsorship from my international friends in Germany.
“It is my passion to do this, to put smiles on children’s faces.
“I never had an opportunity as a child to attend school and I am not doing this to be seen, I do this because I love doing this.
“I want to thank everyone, I could not have done it on my own, and for making it every year possible for children to go out on an annual excursion to the beach on December 16 and for them to celebrate Easter Monday.
“I have 20 boxes of marshmallows with 36 in a box so I have 700 Easter eggs but will be catering for 650 children and the remainder I will bless to a creche or a Sunday school.
“I have over 600 vetkoek, tuna, apples and cold drinks for them which will be made into a party packet.
“I am doing this because I never had Easter eggs when I was a child.”
Mabeleen Chapman, who is an activist and works with Josephs, said the reformed drug dealer helped in all spheres of her community.
“Charmaine Josephs, if I say her name, it speaks of voluntary work,” she said.
“It is not only in her community where she resides but as an ex-convict, she works at a charity shop and there she meets people who have supported her in her plight to help others.
“She serves porridge to children in the morning when they go to school and once a week she gives them a cooked meal.
“Annually, we do the Easter eggs and party packets with her.
“She is an inspiration. She is a street and court committee member and gives support to families, even where there is death in families, she will go with them to Home Affairs or even school registration, she is there.”
Yolanda Matthews, of the New World Foundation, an NGO in Lavender Hill, also works with Josephs. Matthews said: “She is a very humble, honest, loving and detail oriented.
“I worked with Charmaine on different occasions in the community through doing weddings catering and serving the community people with the distribution of food every week on a Tuesday and Thursday.
“She really reaches out to people by assisting them with Home Affairs issues like birth certificates and identification documents, and sacrifices her personal time to stand up at 3am, early in the morning, to take them to that place.
“She always says: “I also want to eat from the same pot of food I'm making, why make a different pot? So if you do something, especially food, do it right.”
“Charmaine has big respect for people … she is a mother to me and I believe to many people also.”