On 18 July 2017, the University of the Western Cape’s Community Engagement Unit celebrated Mandela Day by extending love and kindness to the elderly at the Ikhaya Labantu Centre in Langa.
Nelson Mandela Day recognises Nelson Mandela’s selfless contribution to the fight for a free and fair world - a struggle against poverty and hatred, and for the rights and dignity of all humanity, that lasted 67 years, 27 of them in prison - and one that urges all of us to do the same....for just 67 minutes.
UWC took up the challenge.
After entertainment supplied by the Centre for the Performing Arts, the elderly, homeless and others who call the Centre home (33 people from various areas in the Western Cape) were treated to lunch, followed by cake in celebration of Mandela Day, and received care packs consisting of assorted toiletries donated by staff and students at UWC.
Professor Priscilla Daniels said UWC appreciates the good the Centre does in the community - and also appreciates those who make use of the Centre’s services.
“No one deserves to feel like they are not loved or cared for,” she told the Centre staff and inhabitants. “And we are here today to tell you that you are not forgotten. We love you and appreciate you, for the lives you have led and the lives you have touched - and particularly for the role you played in the liberation of our country as the senior generation.”
“We need to rise above our differences, and also our hatred for differences - because it is in our differences that we find our strengths,” she said, and urged her audience to do whatever they could to help out their fellows.
“It can be reading to the next person who cannot read, or just pushing someone who is in a wheelchair if you can walk - or even if you are caught up in a wheelchair, maybe just extending a hand to someone. Madiba wanted us to perform small acts of kindness, and I believe if we spent every day doing 5 minutes of kindness the world would be a better place.”
Of course, Mandela would not have expected good deeds to be limited to just one day - so the Community also visited Matroosfontein Cottages on 19 July and Lilyhaven Place retirement home on 20 July.
The event would not have been possible without the support of a range of stakeholders, including the Centre for Performing Arts, the Faculty of Dentistry, Physiotherapy student volunteers, and the entire campus community.
See With Your Heart & Make A Difference
Ikhaya Labantu started out as an old age home, but it has grown to serve a variety of purposes in the community of Langa - including being a homeless shelter and care centre on a shoestring budget - under the passionate leadership of 72-year-old Nobuntu Nkanyuza, who founded the Centre in 1986.
Speaking on the day, Nobuntu explained that the Centre’s growth was driven by an increasing recognition of the real needs in the community.
“I started out with a crèche, which was mainly there to accommodate working mothers - during that time I was a bored housewife,” she said. “After my crèche was opened I saw a need at the hostels with so many hungry people, and so I started a soup kitchen from nothing, I later recognised that some people were eating here but sleeping in the streets - so I took them in, which later resulted in the establishment of what we now have.”
While dedicating her efforts to helping the homeless and aged is not an easy task, Nobuntu said it has granted her opportunities she might never otherwise have had - such as working with refugees and learning a variety of things from different African people who lived with them.
“I see things now with my heart and not just my eyes and brain,” she said, “and I hope I may inspire others to see that way as well.”