Every so often you meet somebody who's determination, dedication and passion is so admirable, and inspiring that you can only support her. That person is Patricia Fekema, or Mama Fekema. Just over 10 years ago she started Zusakhe in DuNoon, a settlement just outside of Cape Town, after she lost her daughter to AIDS.
We first met Patricia in 2008, when the organisation was small but ambitious, supporting the community of DuNoon through child care, a grade R school, after school care, home care, and support groups. What stood out back then, was Patricia's way of communication with the staff, and the deep care for others. The premises, starting from a sea container on an open field, was always spotless, and as a visitor one could only be impressed by how organised everything was. Discipline was flawlessly integrated with warmth and kindness, and as a visitor it always felt like a safe haven for children who are enduring challenges at a young and vulnerable age.
Over the years, with the help of volunteers and supporting organisations, Zusakhe has professionalised, registered as an NGO, and is now receiving some desperately needed funding towards ongoing costs. For larger initiatives Zusakhe is relying on funding from donors. On Thursday, we joined the opening of the new premises, funded by donations from the Rotary Club of Blouberg and various International Rotary Clubs, as well as additional (overseas) donors. The new site is impressive, with a padded central play area which is covered to protect against sun and rain, and free airflow to keep the area cool during the hot summer months.
An incredible milestone for Mama Fekema, who burst out in tears after her thank you speech. It's been the relentless efforts from her and her team, day in and day out that got Zusakhe this far. We chatted to a young gent who joined Zusakhes after school programme 10 years ago, and is forever grateful for what Mama Fekema has done for him. In his own words: "It has changed my life, I'll never forget what Mama's done for me." He's now supporting Zusakhe on a voluntary basis, with any maintenance jobs in and around the building.
When we spoke to Patricia in December, she shared with us that she'd like the teachers to wear uniforms, to create unity, and also make sure that the teachers are dressed appropriately to work with children. We donated the golf shirts, which the ladies in the kitchen and teachers were proudly wearing during Thursday's opening event.
Should you like to get involved in any way to support Zusakhe, pop us an email and we can bring you in touch. Apart from food, stationary, books, funding towards continued staff training is always much appreciated.