Concerned about the effect covid-19 was having on 22 parentless children at a centre in Gauteng’s Alexandra township, Potatoes South Africa and various friends in agriculture brought a little Christmas cheer when it was least expected.
First, they surprised children at the Thuthuzela Aid Community Centre with gifts and then they also made a monetary pledge to support the work of this home for children who have been removed from parental custody.
Thuthuzela was established by 44-year-old Elizabeth (“Lizzy”) Monyela in 2005 when she felt the desire to take care of children who were abused and neglected in their own homes.
With the help of the department of social development she was able to take in those children and provide for their basic needs.
“I looked after the children in a one-bedroom house in Alexandra where I provided them with a place of safety, meals, basic pre-school education and counselling,” she tells Food For Mzansi.
When the house became too small to accommodate all the children, she moved to an abandoned building in a nearby industrial area. In 2014, she was received some funding from sponsors and was able to purchase a new house in Marlboro, north of Alexandra.
Through sponsorships from the private sector and individuals who support their cause, Thuthuzela is now a fully-fledged day care centre. In addition to providing meals and pre-school education, the centre also facilitates the transportation of children to schools in surrounding areas.
“We currently take care of 22 orphans,” says Tshegofatso Fanyane, an administrator at Thuthuzela. “They stay in the orphanage full-time and they all go to different schools in the nearby townships, but now we also have staff members who are tutors who assist them with their schoolwork.”
Thuthuzela currently employs 12 people although they are also raising funds to employ more workers. Fanyane says, “The centre is currently not doing too well in terms of operation as our funding has really been affected by covid-19. We are aiming to raise sustainable funds to hire more staff so that we can assist the children to ensure that they continue to give us a 100% pass rate.”
“These Initiatives are vital. they remind children that they matter enough, even to strangers.”
Fanyane states that the children come to them at different ages. The oldest is 17.
“The department of social development identifies those children who need a place of safety and then, while they are assessing their families, they will place the children with us. They will either stay with us until they are adopted, or they become reunited with their families once the department deems the families fit to take care of their children.”
According to Fanyane, Thuthuzela’s vison is to raise these children to be responsible, independent adults who are able to live a progressive, positive life.
‘Children matter – even to strangers’
Potatoes SA say they supported Thuthuzela because they wanted to provide hope to the children of South Africa through the #AmazambaneForLife campaign. The campaign also aims to educate South Africans on the taste, versatility, value for money, and convenience of potatoes.
While thanking Potatoes SA, Monyela says, “As an orphanage, we are reliant on grants and sponsorships to provide for the children. It is always so great to see the beaming faces of children as they feel loved and cared for. These sorts of initiatives are also vital because they remind the children that they matter enough, even to strangers.”
Immaculate Zinde, marketing manager at Potatoes South Africa, says, “Many families have to do more with far less as covid-19 has exacerbated an already widening socio-economic gap. The day was all about sharing joy and uplifting the human spirit.
“Through our #AmazambaneForLife campaign, we are hoping to show South Africans that potatoes are an affordable staple that offers a delicious range of cooking options for those festive holiday meals.
“This time of year is about being with our loved ones, and there’s no better sign of love than sharing a wholesome meal with friends and family.”
Thuthuzela Aid Community Centre and Potatoes SA also acknowledged the support of Pink Drive SA, Cayla van Eeden (Miss Junior South Africa 2020 and Face of South Africa 2020, Monique Taylor, Mariska Smit, Pageants SA, Grow Fresh Produce Agents, Thando Morabe and Tebogo Nare.