Thokoza, a Gauteng township, is about 11 times more population-dense than Pretoria. With 3731.64 households per square kilometre, it comes as no surprise that those who cannot look after themselves get trampled over.
Not on Nomsa Ntuli’s watch. Nomsa is the founder of Ekukhanyeni Assistance Living, which has its humble origins as a mobile home-based care facility. Nomsa and her team would go from home to home helping the helpless, specifically those suffering from HIV / AIDS and TB, and it was during this time that it became increasingly clear to Nomsa that Thokoza’s elderly were being severely neglected at best, and outright abused at worst.
Out of this realization, Ekukhanyeni was born. They started out in 2009 in a small 3 bedroom house with three elderly people, but have since moved into much bigger premises. These days, they house 58 of Thokoza’s elderly. They feed them, they clean them, and they keep them safe. 'It means a lot just to sit with them,' Nomsa will tell you, and one look around at the sea of well-worn faces proves that she’s right.
The team consists of 32 members, including caregivers as well as cooks, housekeepers, gardeners, and receptionists. Although the centre has no trained medical professionals on site, they closely monitor the things they can – like blood pressure and sugar levels – and transport beneficiaries to and from the clinic.
Ekukhanyeni means “in the light” in Zulu, and Nomsa couldn’t have picked a better name. In between the centre’s bright blue walls, she and her team shine light and peace into the dark, dusty corners of old age.
The centre runs a big monthly deficit, even with a monthly government subsidy of R17 000. The community donates things like clothes when it can, but for Ekukhanyeni to be able to comfortably feed their beneficiaries and begin to dream bigger, they need further assistance.