Opening her door to comfort people in distress in the Stutterheim community is what Nomfuneko Salaze committed herself to do after she was retrenched five years ago.
The mother of three started “a white door shelter” – Kusile Women Empowerment Centre – which supports rape victims and abused women and children, while others in distress also make use of the facility.
Nontsikelelo Komeni, who works at the centre, nominated Salaze as a local hero for her tireless efforts to develop and empower the community.
“Through her relations she has secured 18-month contract jobs for 82 unemployed people in the community, while also assisting 20 youths to obtain learnerships with the department of roads and public works.
“In addition she has also skilled the women who come to the support groups at the centre with arts and crafts. They are now able to make earrings with beads which they sell to sustain themselves.”
Komeni commended Salaze for being a phone call away to anyone from the community any day or night.
“She is a mother, police, social worker, finance lady in this community. If there is something she cannot do, she will find someone who can.”
Salaze, 58, also runs a daily soup kitchen which operates in four different villages, feeding about 100 people at a time. It is served every day in her home village, Endlovini.
“I had been retrenched from work and I knew that I was too old to be employed anywhere so I decided use the time to do something I have always wanted to do – give back to my community.
“I had this vision, but I just didn’t know where to start or where to go to get it under way, but a lot of support from my family and friends saw the centre being established in 2012.”
Although the centre is funded by social development, Salaze collects clothes and toiletries from neighbours and friends who donate to the people who sleep at the centre, while the soup kitchen is sustained with the support of local business.
“The centre is supposed to keep people for up to six hours until social workers arrive, but it doesn’t always work out like that.
“Sometimes we have people here for up to two weeks and during this period they need to bath, be clothed and fed, which we do.”
Thandiswa Witvoet, 42, an unemployed mother of six, said Salaze was the “sun in the cold days of Mlungisi”.
“I am unemployed and my partner relies on piece jobs. We are living off the grants of the children and with all our daily expenses too, it is not enough. But at least every Thursday we know we can look forward to a healthy, meaty, well-prepared soup and bread which is sometimes the only thing my family eats.
“Mamu Salaze is a blessing to this community, we hope she can get all the support she needs to have the soup kitchen here, everyday.” — firstname.lastname@example.org