Striving against all the odds

NATIONAL Women’s Day is celebrated to embrace the achievements of women and to empower women.

This is the belief of the founder of Elisiphiwo Community Crisis Care Centre, Elizabeth Mthembu.

The centre caters for elderly people in Hambanathi Township and assists child-headed families in the community.

Since its inception in 2015, funding has always been a major stumbling block.

Mthembu, a retired human resources officer, started her organisation while she was living in Osindisweni area – a few kilometers away from Verulam.

She started off with a senior citizens club called Elisiphiwo Senior Citizens Club.

The aim was to empower her community and prove to herself that women are creative and hard workers.

Starting a senior citizens club was not an easy task. However, that did not deter her.

She worked with an existing local organisation called Uthandolwethu Home-based Care Centre.

Mthembu said that she started by visiting homes of elderly people counselling them.

Mthembu’s passion for working for her community started when she was working at the human resources department for a company in Tongaat. It grew further when she left the job.

“I used to interact a lot with people coming to my office for their personal problems. I would advise them further and sometimes even go beyond the call of duty as the human resource officer to assist them. Helping the community has always been my passion. I would say the corporate environment restricted me from going the extra mile to assist the needy,” Mthembu said.

This motivated her to forge further looking for sponsorship to help the entire community.

Her centre feeds the senior citizens and people taking chronic medications.

“We did a survey in the area and figured out that there were more than 30 families who were destitute. In 2015 I moved to Tongaat and continued with my duties to uplift the community. We then registered the non-profit.

“It has been a long journey. I used to cook at my home and invite local residents to come and have lunch,” she said.

Mthembu is among respected women who have made a remarkable change in their communities.

When she relocated to Hambanathi, after many years of struggling to get an office to run her organisation from, she contacted the former ward councillor to assist her.

“After I had registered my NPO and started working in partnership with the Social Development Department, I started making proposals to factories and other companies around Tongaat to donate food parcels. I got a lease agreement to use offices at the Hambanathi Sports Field,” she said.

The centre also runs programmes for the youth and educates parents on how to communicate with their children once they reach adolescence.

Due to the increase of social problems, Mthembu felt it was appropriate to reach out to the youth and their families.

She also integrates programmes that deal with family issues.

Recently, more than 15 men received certificates and vouchers after completing a five-day workshop dealing with issues pertaining to family matters.

“We encouraged men to use condoms, get circumcised and be responsible men in their homes. Through these programmes I am hands on with the community issues,” Mthembu said.

Her dream is to free her community from the pit of poverty and change the mentality towards women in society.