You probably don’t remember, but back in mid-October, I mentioned that I had started a piece about ‘Mama Rosie’, who was definitely a good candidate for this feature, but that she had done so many wonderful things that I couldn’t finish the piece in time for that week’s post. At the time, I thought I would feature her the following week, but who-knows-what came along and distracted me, and I never did return to finish that one. Mana Rosie is back on my radar this week, however, because apparently I am not the only one who thinks she is worthy of notice. Mama Rosie, aka Rosalia Mashale, was one of CNN’s Top Ten Heroes of the Year for 2017! So without further ado, please allow me to introduce … Mama Rosie!!!!
In 1989, Mama Rosie was a schoolteacher who had recently retired and moved from the Eastern Cape to the township of Khayelitsha, in Westerna Cape Town, South Africa. Khayelitsha is a poor and overcrowded township of approximately 15 square miles, and a population density of more than 26,000 people per square mile. The unemployment rate is 54.1% and Khayelitsha is afflicted by the largest HIV/Aids epidemic in the world. Many days Mama Rosie noticed children scavenging for food in a nearby dumpster, and one day she invited them in …
“I called them in, and we sang rhymes, and I gave them bread and something to drink. And that was the birth of the daycare center.”
Mama Rosie enlisted the aid of other women in the community and by the end of the first week, 36 children were being cared for.
Mama Rosie had run the free daycare center for over a decade, and was thinking of retiring when one morning she opened her door to find a child who had been abandoned on her doorstep.
“He was between the age of two and three. He was naked and full of sores. He didn’t even know his name.”
She did what anybody would do, and took the boy to the police, who, knowing her reputation of caring for children, told her that she should care for him! And that was the beginning of the orphanage! Before long police and social workers were bringing orphaned and abandoned children to Mama Rosie, and hospitals were calling her to pick up babies whose mothers had died in childbirth. She never turned a single one away. By the end of the first year, she was caring for 67 children in her own home!
“I didn’t have the heart to turn anyone away. Young girls and boys and babies were in every part of my house.”
In 2001, she established Baphumelele which means “we have progressed”, and boy have they ever … progressed …
“We have a medical clinic for children and another facility for adults. We care for those who have HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases, such as cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, and (we) operate a hospice for children.”
Baphumelele has developed into a thriving community project over the years. In addition to the Children’s Home and Educare Centre, Baphumelele has expanded to include the Adult Respite Care Centre, Child Respite Centre, Hospice in the Home, Child Headed Households, Fountain of Hope, and Rosie’s Bakery/Sewing Project.
Baphumelele takes care of more than 5,000 orphaned, abandoned or sick children in desperate need of loving homes. Some have lost their parents to Aids, while others are themselves HIV-positive.
When the children in Mama Rosie’s care grow up, she helps them find jobs, or else gives them work in the bakery.
But Mama Rosie’s efforts don’t begin and end with only the children! She founded a women’s group, Sakhulwazi Women’s Organisation where women come together to learn skills such as sewing, beading and growing food … skills that will help them earn a living in the community.
At the CNN 2017 Hero of the Year awards ceremony last month, Mama Rosie gave a speech, where she said …
“They always say it takes a village to raise a child. Please join us to raise more orphans.”
I give two thumbs up to Mama Rosie for all her tireless efforts on behalf of the people of Khayelitsha!
Sadly, Mama Rosie did not win the CNN Hero of Year award, but one of my previous ‘good people’ did! Amy Wright of Wilmington, North Carolina was named Hero of the Year.