Local Heroes 2022: Daily miracles motivate Xaso’s mission to change lives
Celebrating every small milestone in a child’s life is what keeps Local Hero winner Ziyanda Xaso motivated in her mission to support education.
Xaso, 44, from Amalinda, left her prominent career in the finance industry to focus on community upliftment and now runs the Jika Uluntu Community Centre NPO on the N2 near the Gonubie Farmers Hall.
“I always say that little miracles happen every day. You have to appreciate the little things to be able to keep yourself motivated. If you look at the humongous problem, you’re not going to be able to focus on the day-to-day,” she said.
Jika Uluntu is a community-based organisation that focuses on childhood development and aims to create a safe space for learning.
“We believe that it takes a village to raise a child. Our focus is on rehabilitating the family and communities. We do household visits within our community of 491 households,” Xaso said.
We believe that it takes a village to raise a child. Our focus is on rehabilitating the family and communities.
Jika Uluntu opened in 2017 and has grown to support the ward 50 area, which includes Kwelerha, Gonubie Hall and Tikinini informal settlements.
“Our social workers see what the conditions are and assess what documents they lack, like IDs and birth certificates. If documents are missing they can’t access social grants, which is the social protection the government offers.”
The NPO has a daily feeding scheme for more than 700 children, a preschool that offers two hot meals a day, and an after-school programme.
“One of the things I believe is that if you give a child an opportunity when it comes to education, they can go anywhere. I was lucky enough to be a recipient of that. What really breaks my heart is the abuse that kids experience. There is a lot of sexual abuse that is not spoken about in SA that is just hidden and so we deal with that.”
The centre has six prefab buildings, one being a preschool with an enrolment of 19 children from the age of two to five who all get two meals a day.
“We have ablution facilities because there are none in the area, and a kitchen.”
Xaso said the after-school programme included a hot meal for 71 schoolchildren from grade R to grade 12, with homework support, group and individual counselling from social workers and team-building games.
“For some of these children, that’s the only meal they get. I have no children and I’m not married, so this gives me life. All these children are like my own.”
Jika Uluntu has five permanent staff members and three volunteers and recently employed 27 young adults from the area as part of the NYP programme as youth ambassadors.
The NPO receives funding from Solidar Med from Switzerland and regular support from Lilyfontein School, but also relies on donations from the East London Agricultural Society, who leased the NPO the land at no charge.
“The NPO receives funding from Solidar Med from Switzerland and regular support from Lilyfontein School, but also relies on donations from the East London Agricultural Society, who leased the NPO the land at no charge.
“Every single person, regardless of their challenges, understands that there is a reason they are at the point that they are. I am someone who looks at a person, I try to understand why.
“Some of the younger children born on farms want to strike out on their own and move to the [city] — we noticed this community was growing and growing.
“It is an informal settlement. They don’t have any water or electricity and are not recognised by the government.
“The children in the morning are unwashed because there is no water.”
She said a big challenge was a lack of documentation and a lack of rehabilitation facilities for children with substance abuse problems.
“Without proper documentation, people cannot access basic social protection and it makes it hard for us to account for the services we provide.
“We also see substance abuse in the youth; we have children as young as nine who are addicted to illegal drugs.”
Xaso said her vision for the centre would be a space of growth which could include more community members getting involved to create a sustainable future.
“What we would like to see with the community centre is for it to become an income-generating centre where the community takes ownership of it and see it as a place for them too.”
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