Who will take care of you when you no longer can? Most of us will one day be rendered vulnerable and dependent on others when we reach our twilight years. Tswelopele Frail Care Centre in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, is a home for older persons and disabled people. Registered with the Department of Social Development in April 2005, Tswelopele – which means “progress” or “moving forward” in Tswana, is accredited to accommodate 100 people.
We chatted with Sylvia Modiselle, who is the nursing manager at the home.
FB: Sylvia, why did you call your home “Tswelopele”?
Sylvia: Tswelopele was founded as a result of the closure of a home called Emseni, which means Place of Mercy. When Emseni shut down, due to lack of funding, we decided to set up Tswelopele, because we had to. We named it Tswelopele because we were determined to continue the work – to “move forward”.
FB: Please tell us a little about your beneficiaries.
Sylvia: We currently have 92 people in the home, mostly elderly and totally dependent and destitute; either their families aren’t capable of looking after them or accommodating them in the shacks that are their homes, or they’ve been rejected or abused by their families – financially (for their social income grants) or emotionally. Most are ill. We have stroke survivors and people suffering from Aids, hypertension, diabetes and epilepsy. About 10 percent of our beneficiaries have disabilities – we have three quadriplegics – and we also care for people who have mental illnesses but can’t be placed in mental institutions.
FB: The work that you do is often classified as “welfare” partly because your beneficiaries will never be self-reliant or able to generate an income for themselves or the organisation. How does Tswelopele sustain itself?
Sylvia: We’re entirely reliant on funding and donations. We do get funding from the Department of Social Development, but it’s an annual subsidy. For the past two years, we’ve received funding from the Lotto, which has been a life saver. We have also in the past received a donation from Anglo American. It also helps that residents who receive a government grant pay over a portion of it to us. It’s very costly to run an organisation like ours. We must pay rent, electricity, water, salaries and buy detergents, toiletries and food.
FB: Please tell us about the food you receive from FoodBank.
Sylvia: It’s not a huge amount, but it’s more than we used to get and we depend on it. FoodBank gives us a good variety of food every six weeks. We get about 130kg a month – but it lasts us about five days. FoodBank gives us pasta, samp, soup mix, fruit, bread and cereal. We love getting cereal! We spend about R23,000 a month on food; we buy a lot on staples like mealie meal, rice and sugar. FoodBank also gives us essential toiletries, which is a huge help. We’ve received sizeable donations of toilet soap and Vaseline and the sort of personal care products that we desperately need. We’re very grateful for our relationship with FoodBank. We regard it as a partnership. It has helped sustain us since inception.
FB: How many people do you employ?
Sylvia: We have a staff complement of 36 people, including the centre manager, a social worker and myself. We employ 18 full-time nurses, six housekeepers, six people in the laundry, five kitchen staff and a maintenance man. And we have 20 volunteer care workers, who receive a stipend.
FB: What’s your most pressing need?
Sylvia: Better premises. The building we occupy is in the inner city – the Bronx or the Harlem of Joburg – and while it provides a refuge for people who come to the city to find work and never leave, our rental’s high and the building is not ideal for our needs. We have no outside space; we are cramped and we’re on three floors. But my concern is that building is potentially unsafe. We’re working with the authorities to make it safer, but it’s going to cost a fortune. We need: smoke and fire detectors, emergency lights and doors, and alarm bells. Phomolong, the NGO that runs the Struisbult Care Centre in Springs (the old age home that burnt down in June claiming the lives of 12 elderly people), was our sister home. We sent four people there – three of them died in that fire. Like the newspapers said after the blaze, homes such as ours are “hopelessly underfunded” and that results in disrepair which makes them dangerous.
FB: Sylvia, what makes you do what you do?
Sylvia: It’s not an easy job – and I’m 61 years old. But I worked in the private sector and I always wanted to serve people who are most in need. I feel like this job is a test from God: these people are most in need.
For more information about Tswelopele, contact Sylvia Modiselle on 011-484-2016.* Most of the agencies we help contribute to sustainable development. However, others such as Tswelopele provide essential welfare services. We are proud that we can help Tswelopele in their invaluable mission and we continually look for ways to source more food to provide to them. - Alan Gilbertson, managing director of FoodBank SA
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