Sat Oct 22 14:02:51 CAT 2016

It's all about caring

By unknown | Jan 24, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

She has boundless energy and a commitment to help destitute and orphaned children.

Susan Rammekwa's story is one of love and compassion. She is genuinely making a difference in the lives of children who have no parents.

It is this selfless commitment that won her the 2006 Clarins-Fairlady Most Dynamisante Woman Award.

When Rammekwa won R150000 from Clarins last year for her good work, she used the money to run the Tshepang Programme for Orphans and Vulnerable Children at Princess Crossing in Roodeport on the West Rand. The project, which she initiated in 2006, provides shelter and other basic needs for orphans.

In two weeks' time, Rammekwa will again be honoured as the Clarins winner. This time she will receive R50000.

Rammekwe says her love for children prompted her to leave her job as an assistant director at the department of child welfare in Johannesburg and establish the project in an informal settlement in 2006.

"It was a church trip to Israel two years ago that put it all in perspective for me. I decided to leave my job and comfortable life because they were no longer giving me the satisfaction and sense of purpose I was looking for.

"Something was pushing me to make a difference to others," she says.

Rammekwe says when the project started, she had 80 children to look after. Today, the project feeds more than 100 children.

Rammekwa says she knew that the project would put a strain on her financially, but she persevered.

"Faith carried me through. I thank the caregivers and the people who work with me for their commitment and support.

"We are coping very well today. I believe you shouldn't wait until you retire to do what you have a passion for," Rammekwa says.

She says the 17 years she worked as a social worker in both the government and non-governmental organisation sectors had exposed her to a broad spectrum of experience, from working with abused, abandoned and neglected children, to community work, counselling and overseeing children's homes, centres and creches.

The experience she gained over the years is now helping her run her own project.

Rammekwa resigned at the end of February 2006 and used her final salary to buy a gas stove, pots and other equipment for the project.

A small room in a local creche attached to the community centre is where she started the project. She used her pension payout to pay for food to feed the children.

The growing number of children coming for help meant she had to look for bigger premises. The local pastor allowed her to use the church hall during the week.

"Late last year we moved to a house on the same street. We had no electricity so volunteers cooked on a gas stove in a small room which we also used as a storeroom for the project's official records and other essential equipment.

"Today we are housed in a decent house, thanks to the SEE Trust that was initiated by a couple from Holland. All we need now are electric stoves."

Rammekwa says the word "Tshepang" means "to have hope", and for children who have lost their parents and their sense of stability and belonging, she believes it is essential "to cultivate a sense of hope and encourage optimism for the future".

Some of the children are HIV-positive and a few of them are on antiretroviral treatment.

All the children have had to deal with death at a very young age, so Rammekwa has included bereavement and general counselling for the children and their extended families.

"Although it has at times been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride, my greatest reward is the noticeable physical and emotional difference in the children from when I first met them," Rammekwe says.


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