‘Mother of the disabled’ provides safe place for kids

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Key points:

  • Nomaxabiso Centre for Children provides a safe place for kids in a crime-ridden township.
  • More than 100 children attend the center, which offers education and care for children with special needs.
  • A United Methodist district superintendent who used to work nearby offers support for the school, which holds a special place in her heart.

Inside the brightly colored building, kids of all ages and abilities sing, dance and learn.

The children don’t know that they are living in the most dangerous, gang-infested township in Cape Town, said Nontuthuzelo Nozulwane, founder of Nomaxabiso Centre for Children.

More than 100 students attend the center, which offers education and care for children with special needs. The school also provides preschool instruction for kids in the neighborhood.

Cape Town is the capital city of Western Cape Province, with a little over 5.8 million inhabitants. The childcare center is situated in Philippi East, a township with a high rate of crime, drug abuse and unemployment.

“This is one of the most dangerous areas. People get shot and nothing is done,” said the Rev. Brian Marimira, a United Methodist pastor who led nearby Bethel United Methodist Mission for two years. He said it pains him to come back to the neighborhood and see the needs of the community.

Nontuthuzelo Nozulwane says caring for her son, Mphuthumi Mfengu, motivated her to start assisting other children in the Philippi East community of Cape Town with similar conditions to his. Photo by Tapiwa Bopoto. 
Nontuthuzelo Nozulwane says caring for her son, Mphuthumi Mfengu, motivated her to start assisting other children in the Philippi East community of Cape Town with similar conditions to his. Photo by Tapiwa Bopoto.

But despite the dangers, Nomaxabiso Centre is well respected in the neighborhood and its work has not been affected by criminal activities, Nozulwane said.

She said it was her disabled son, Mphuthumi Mfengu, who motivated her to start assisting other children in the community with similar conditions as his. Mfengu is now 31 years old.

“When I started this charity work in 1992, I had a shack that occupied five kids only. My aim was to assist community parents who could not take care of their disabled children,” Nozulwane said. “Now, the center has grown in numbers to more than 100 children and I make sure that every child is happy, loved and well taken care of.”

She said the center’s teachers also instruct mothers on how to take care of their children at home, noting that many of them struggled before they came to Nomaxabiso.

The Rev. Maureen Figlan (right) dances with children at the Nomaxabiso Centre for Children. At rear is teacher Cetyiswa Shumi. Figlan is superintendent of The United Methodist Church’s Cape Coastal District. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News. 
The Rev. Maureen Figlan (right) dances with children at the Nomaxabiso Centre for Children. At rear is teacher Cetyiswa Shumi. Figlan is superintendent of The United Methodist Church’s Cape Coastal District. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

United Methodists in South Africa offer support for Nozulwane’s ministry. The Rev. Maureen Figlan, Cape Coastal District superintendent, said the center holds a special place in her heart.

“Each time I visit, disabled kids welcome me with genuine smiles and love. This melts my heart with joy,” she said.

Figlan said she came to know Nomaxabiso during her 17 years as principal of a nearby school.

“Community parents with disabled children wanted their kids to be enrolled in a mainline school … not accepting the condition of their kids. This is when I heard of Nomaxabiso and I approached Nontuthuzelo for assistance,” Figlan said.

Siyanda Bojana greets visitors at the Nomaxabiso Centre for Children. Photo by Mike DuBose,  
Siyanda Bojana greets visitors at the Nomaxabiso Centre for Children. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Though the country’s Department of Social Development assists the center with food, it is not enough due to the number of children being helped, she said.

“At some point, I do approach supermarkets asking for vegetable donations and I use my vehicle to fetch them,” Figlan said.

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In addition to Figlan’s help, members of the South Africa Conference also assist the center in translating documents and writing letters requesting clothes and food donations from local stores.

Nozulwane said her work has been rewarding, but for parents and students in the neighborhood, the center has been life-changing.

“When I walk on the streets of this community, members (smile) at me and call me by the name ‘Mother of the disabled.’ God never stops giving me strength to do good.”

Makunike is director of communications for the South Africa Conference of The United Methodist Church. Neliswa Mafatshe and Sisanda Mthembu, communicators for the South Africa Conference, contributed to this report. News media contact: Julie Dwyer, news editor, [email protected] or 615-742-5469. To read more United Methodist news subscribe to free Daily or Weekly Digests.

 


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