Local heroes have a simple motto — love heals

Caring for the community and bringing joy to others at the heart of Lusikisiki couple’s modus operandi

Nwabisa and Odwa Wopula have gained fame for hosting white weddings free of charge for traditionally-married couples and running a soup kitchen where they feed the poor and hungry.
LEADING WITH LOVE: Nwabisa and Odwa Wopula have gained fame for hosting white weddings free of charge for traditionally-married couples and running a soup kitchen where they feed the poor and hungry.

Whether it is feeding the poor and hungry or watching couples walk down the aisle, nothing gives more joy and satisfaction to Lusikisiki’s own power couple and Local Heroes nominees Odwa and Nwabisa Wopula than sharing with the less privileged and seeing genuine love between two people.

Through their events management company, Bags on Call, the Wopulas have gained fame for organising and hosting mass white weddings for traditionally-married couples since last year.

They also run their own soup kitchen which offers free meals to the needy and scores of rural people at Sassa points on social grant payout days.

Their motto is very simple — love heals.

Speaking to the Dispatch, Odwa said love often took a back seat in many people’s lives due to hardship and the pressures of life in general.

“With the nature of our lives and our social systems, highlighted by struggles for money, access to education and health, inflation, increase in fuel and food prices, often love becomes the last thing on many people’s minds,” he said.

“People are constantly under pressure to care for their families and their children.

“Many do not even celebrate anniversaries because they look at their situation and feel they don’t have enough financial muscle.

“There is so much in terms of the family nucleus that is not going well.

"Love is a commodity that we don’t pay enough attention to, but it is something we need to talk about.

"I believe it can heal a person and be a cushion against some of the hardships life throws at us.”

Nwabisa explained that she had pitched an idea for a mass wedding to her husband. He immediately agreed to the idea.

Initially, the couple wanted to host an event to celebrate their 15th anniversary and then Covid-19 happened, putting a spanner in their plans.

However, in 2023 they decided to host a mass wedding to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary with other couples, to thank God for blessing them.

She said helping someone or putting together a glittering wedding ceremony for many people was better than “sending an invoice and getting paid for your work”.

The lucky couples are accommodated in a B&B free of charge, have their makeup, hair and nails done by professional stylists and beauticians and are chauffeured around in luxurious cars.

Some had reportedly never seen a white wedding in their lives or slept in a hotel, and came from very poor backgrounds. 

“Some shed tears and others write private messages thanking us,” said. "We see people coming all over to celebrate these weddings. They come to celebrate love.

“While women sometimes cry after seeing themselves looking so beautiful, men sometimes need a bit of convincing when it comes to grooming.

“They protest at having to put makeup on their faces and so we often have to convince them that it is not makeup but we want them to look good on the day.”

This year the Wopulas have decided to incorporate the Uthando lwamaMpondo Festival, which will have a fashion show to showcase the AmaMpondo culture. It will also have a gala dinner and a trail hiking event. The main event will be held on September 22.

She said it was heartwarming for them to see people radiating with joy at realising their dreams of exchanging wedding vows.

Besides wearing expensive suits and white dresses, the couples are also adorned with the most beautiful AmaMpondo garments for their wedding, showcasing the best of the AmaMpondo culture.

Nwabisa said this was because, for a long time, AmaMpondo were looked down upon and not seen as people who could achieve amazing feats.

Recalling her own wedding, Nwabisa, who was only 22 when she walked down the aisle, said: "Looking at myself in the mirror, I felt so beautiful, and I felt so loved.

"I felt so important that my husband had chosen me. I shed a tear or two. This was the most joyous occasion in my life.”

But Odwa became a bundle of contrasting emotions on his big day.

He said he had become nervous at first while standing at the altar, but also excited at the same time.

“It is a lot of emotions; you question your readiness. But when she appeared and walked down the aisle, you can’t believe it, you are left speechless," he said.

"You are just glad that you did not faint. Those emotions are not scripted, you cannot perfect the moment.”

Among their many charitable events, the couple have also cooked and fed victims of floods in Port St Johns.

Ingquza Hill Business Chamber secretary Lwandile Gcume, who nominated the couple, praised them for making a huge contribution to boosting the economy of the area. He said they bought locally whatever they cooked.

The garments worn during the mass weddings were also sourced locally, while the pair had played a critical role in promoting the culture of AmaMpondo, he said.

“This couple do tremendous work for the community and I think they perfectly fit the description of Local Heroes.”



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