Mama Jessie retires after 30 years of unbroken service

IN October 1988, the Malabar Home for the Aged opened its doors for the first time.

The home was built thanks to donations from the Indian community with the assistance of the Red Cross and was initially called the Red Cross Old Age Home.

Although it was built by the Indian community, from day one, it was never an Indian home and accepted residents from across the metro, irrespective of race, colour or creed. The very first resident was Lily Hutton.

Responding to an advert in the newspaper for a position as a ward aid, Jessie Ndlazilwana, who lives in New Brighton, took a bus to Livingstone Hospital and then walked all the way to Malabar asking for directions on the way.

She got the job for the princely salary of R90 a month.

Thirty years down the line, Mama Jessie, as she is affectionately known by colleagues, took her last ride to Malabar when she retired at the end of last month.

During her 30 years’ service, she never missed a day – come rain or shine.

“I loved my job and loved working with old people,” said Mama Jessie.

The dedicated ward aid once came to work for three months without being paid because the home, which is a non-profit organisation, had run out of funds.

“It was not easy but we did not want the old people to suffer. Mr George and Mr Choonara (two of the officials working at the home at that time) gave us bus fare from their own pockets,” she said.

Paying tribute to Mama Jessie at her farewell celebration, chairperson of the Malabar Home for the Aged, Mogan Segadavan, said it was not easy finding staff like Mama Jessie.

“She was always smiling and getting on with her duties. She reported for duty not because she was being paid but because she was a caring person.

“At the home we do not pay market-related salaries but her devotion to duty is commendable. On behalf of the management and residents I wish Mama Jessie a well-earned rest,” said Segadavan.

Mama Jessie, who never married, is enjoying her retirement looking after her grandchildren. Not one to sit still, she plans on opening a tuck shop at her home.