When unemployed Bulelwa Lengisi opened a creche in one of Mthatha’s oldest and most impoverished informal settlements in 2011, she had no idea of the sleepless nights ahead of her.
Initially, she used a shack for the 30-odd young pupils in Phola Park. But a year later, it was blown away by a gale. Undeterred, she turned her own two-roomed mud home into a makeshift pre-school by day.
Lengisi, 38, said there were days she just wanted to call it quits. But then she would think of her “little ones” who called her house their school.
Sometimes, she would find herself battling to hold back tears as she tried to sleep at night, worrying about the responsibility she carried to ensure that her charges had a safe place during the day.
This weekend, she found herself wiping tears from her face again. But this time they were tears of joy as Lengisi accepted the keys to a new, modern creche from which to run her beloved Kwakhanya Educare Centre.
The new building was given to her by a group of Mthatha women calling themselves Women with Vision, a non-profit organisation involved in assisting education in underprivileged communities since 2007.
And Lengisi feels she will now be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep every night.
“I am overjoyed by what [Women with Vision] have done for me and the children of Phola Park,” she told the Daily Dispatch on Saturday.
“I don’t get paid for what I am doing but my love for little children spurred me on to open this centre. There were just too many young children loitering in the streets and, as a mother myself, I felt I needed to do something to change that.”
She said her home was too small to accommodate all the children and only had a single toilet.
“It was difficult because I had to take some of them to an open field whenever they needed to relieve themselves,” she added.
Women with Vision’s chairwoman Tersha Underwood said they had managed to raise around R135000 from sponsors to build Lengisi’s new and improved pre-school.
“We work mostly with children with chronic illnesses but we also raise funds for the education of poor children.”
Apart from relying on generous sponsors, the group also hosts fundraisers and markets their organisation through social networks.
The organisation draws professional women and housewives of all races who are interested in making a difference in other people’s lives.
It was founded by Rashida Mukadam in 2007 after her own son was diagnosed with bone cancer. Although he totally recovered from the illness, Mukadam decided to spend some of her energies giving back to impoverished and underprivileged communities.
The new building comprises a classroom and a playroom to cater for the almost 40 children on the creche’s books.
But Mukadam said they wanted to raise an additional R50000 to complete the project.
“Treat this centre as your own garden. Water it and rake and don’t allow anyone to walk over it,” she told Phola Park residents.