Eastern Cape government spin doctor’s private foundation changes lives of desperate families
It is unusual to find a government spin doctor who, in his private life, is a compassionate campaigner for the rural poor.
But seeing poverty and suffering makes Sizwe Kupelo cry — and act.
The approachable Eastern Cape department of health spokesperson works for a department that is riddled with troubles, and in his job he comes across many heartbreaking stories.
But he draws personal motivation from the work carried out by his Sizwe Kupelo Foundation (SKF), which focuses on distressed children and women and the disabled.
My inspiration to start the foundation stemmed from my love for children. I believe they have so much to offer in this world and deserve to be given a chance
“My inspiration to start the foundation stemmed from my love for children.
“I believe they have so much to offer in this world and deserve to be given a chance.
“I cannot stand poverty. When I see a struggling person I find myself crying — I like to share.
“The foundation was established out of a need to reach out, and make timely interventions to assist communities and parents, with a special focus on children from needy backgrounds who require specialist health care.
“The foundation is aimed at aiding children from poor homes who suffer from serious ailments and attendant health complications,” said Kupelo.
His decision to establish SKF was prompted by what he witnessed as a government official and his personal experience of having grown up in a village.
“These experiences weighed heavily on me, engendering a desire and a belief to make a difference, albeit incrementally,” Kupelo said.
“In most cases, I would come across heartbreaking situations that involved children who suffered from life-threatening illnesses needing urgent assistance which was not readily available.
“Some of these children are Aids orphans from impoverished backgrounds, entirely dependent on child support grant for sustenance.”
Kupelo remembers with pride how his foundation provided a 12-year-old girl with a wheelchair.
His heart filled with emotion as he watched the girl, who had never had a wheelchair and had crawled on the ground since birth, finally receive one.
He was also recently responsible for raising R1.2m to build and repair four homes for needy families in former Transkei.
All of these projects came to his notice through his work as a government spokesperson.
During the pandemic, he happened to be visiting an infection hotspot in Majola Village.
He was shocked to see a family living in a crumbling home, and through a contact, former SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana, got R150,000 to build them a new home.
He said Jarana had immediately agreed to assist when approached by the foundation and also agreed to provide a Katkop family whose rondavel home was destroyed by a fire with a fully-furnished, three-roomed house.
The family moved into their new home in July.
Abongile Dila, who nominated Kupelo as a local hero, said the kind-hearted spokesperson’s foundation had also helped two desperate families in OR Tambo and Joe Gqabi municipalities by building them homes, which amounted to almost R600,000.
Another home the SKF foundation built was for a family from Katkop village near Mount Fletcher. They were left destitute after their house and all their belonging were destroyed in a fire.
The family’s plight was brought to the attention of former health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, who informed Kupelo about their situation.
Kupelo drove to the site and was shocked to find the family of six crammed together in a tiny, freezing, zinc shack.
He immediately bought them groceries from his own pocket and undertook through his foundation to build them a four-roomed structure including a kitchen.
The foundation built the family a R400,000 home and furnished it with R60,000 worth of furniture.
It was with pride that Kupelo told the Dispatch: “Their lives changed for the better.”
Dila said: “Kupelo is a real hero who came to the rescue of destitute and desperate people in the middle of the pandemic.
“He continues to hold an annual Christmas party for needy children and now is also involved in a back-to-school campaign.”
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