Mama Angel helps beat back the bitter cold

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

While most of the country continues to shiver its way through another cold spell, Sowetan's Mama Angel recently brought some warmth to the lives of those at Emthonjeni Awareness Centre in Evaton.

This multi-purpose drop-in centre provides a sanctuary for 250 Gauteng children, many of whom have been abused or find themselves as orphans or part of child-headed households.

"Altogether we have 147 children who head households and this number continues to increase," says Maria Manoto, director of the home.

"Since we started in 2002 we have noticed a significant rise in the number of child-headed, as well as granny-headed, households.

"It is very hard for the young children but somehow they manage to cope."

Started in 2002 in a single container - which acted as office, kitchen, administration area and classroom - Emthonjeni now occupies premises owned by the Anglican Church.

Its staff has grown over the past few years from an initial six to a complement of 56.

"Most of the staff are volunteers from the area who receive a stipend of between R500 and R1000 a month. This payment depends on the experience they have and what their functions are."

A social worker for 34 years, Manoto retired in 2002 with the intention of developing her love for aromatherapy and hydrotherapy, but soon realised there were more important matters affecting her community.

"I've always had a passion for caring for sick people and this is what I do best," says this humble single mother of two sons.

"At times it's heartbreaking when a person you held in your arms yesterday suddenly passes away. It's distressing and something you can never get used to."

When presented with 40 blankets by Mama Angel, courtesy of Aranda Textile Mills, Manoto battled to contain her emotions.

"What can I say . I'm at a loss for words. Hallelujah."

In a bid to generate extra funds, the group has recently built its own bakery and candle- making operation.

"The bread we sell to the local community and the candles are used for weddings and other special occasions.

"We also grow a number of vegetables and herbs to help feed the children. The herbs are a great help at this time of the year when the children pick up colds and flu easily."

l To view a video of Emthonjeni Awareness Centre log on to