Local Heroes 2023: Mazwi opens heart and home to hungry pupils, recovering addict
Since opening the Hope Lithemba Kitchen in 2018, Brenda Mazwi’s Parkside home has become alive with children flocking to enjoy a hearty meal before school.
This is primarily thanks to Mazwi’s daughter, Alvina, who asked her mother for extra lunch boxes for her hungry school friends when she was in grade 3.
This simple request transformed Mazwi’s family home into a community feeding project for children, who also return to the safe space once the day is done.
Despite having four children of her own, Mazwi cooks porridge every morning for more than 50 children from grades 1-7 from Parkside and Second Creek, providing lunch, homework assistance and a safe space after school.
Mazwi said: “For lunch, I cook whatever I get — rice or sandwiches, we don’t always get food donations so we make do with what we have.
“I also polish their school shoes twice a week and help with homework.”
Working out of her home kitchen — on a stove with only two working plates — Mazwi provides meals using donated food parcels. Mazwi also had Wi-Fi installed for the children to use while completing their homework and uses the time to wash their uniforms.
Despite having four children of her own, Brenda Mazwi cooks porridge every morning for more than 50 children from Grades 1-7 from Parkside and Second Creek, providing lunch, homework assistance and a safe space after school.
“Sometimes I tell them to go and bath here, and we wash their school clothes if they need — their parents are drinking, they don’t care.
“They [the parents] always come here when they are drunk thanking me for all we are doing but they never come here sober.”
Most of the children come from broken homes, Mazwi explained, with parents addicted to drugs or alcohol.
“Sometimes I don’t even know these children, they call me and they scream ‘mama, mama!’
“Hope Lithemba is the same word translated in isiXhosa, meaning there’s hope for each and every child, they must know that I am always there for them.”
Sometimes I don’t even know these children, they call me and they scream ‘mama, mama!
In March, Mazwi also took in Sasha Engelbrecht, a 36-year-old woman recovering from drug addiction, who had been sleeping under a bridge.
Engelbrecht said: “I was still on the streets when I came to her on drugs and she let me in her house.
“I had not washed (myself) for many days. I’ve been so thankful to her.
“In 10 weeks I [had] stopped the drugs.
“She helped me get my disability payment, she gave me a room to stay in, organised a bed, clothes — I didn’t have clothes — shoes, toiletries. I had nothing and she took me in,” Englebrecht said, adding that a typical day in the Mazwi house was a scramble of children and laughter.
“There is a lot of love in that house. Brenda is kind, caring and her door is always open to anyone.
“She works tirelessly every day for her community.”
This year, Mazwi was nominated as a Daily Dispatch Local Hero for the second time.
She said: “I’ve seen the change in people’s lives after working with me, it means a lot that people are aware of what I’m doing.”
Mazwi said she would use her prize money to purchase a new washing machine to wash the children’s clothes or a new fully functional stove to make warm meals.