Zakumi brings joy to poor kids

Canaan Mdletshe

Aids orphans, poor and vulnerable children in Umlazi, south of Durban, were treated to a feast when SA's most popular mascot, Zakumi, visited their centre.

The tail-wagging, soccer-playing leopard was launched on September 22, starting Coca-Cola South Africa's two-year programme of involvement with the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Zakumi was in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday, where he brought laughter and joy to shoppers at Umlazi Mega City before heading for the Sithokozise NOAH (Nurturing Orphans of Aids for Humanity) centre.

The daycare centre caters for 292 children from poor families, ranging in age from two to 16.

The centre was established in 2003 but started operating from the new building, which is sponsored by cool drink manufacturers ABI, two years later.

Supervisor Sphiwe Miya said most of the children were Aids orphans while others were from poor families in the township.

"The children arrive at the centre every morning," Miya said. "We feed and prepare them for school and we also offer an after-care facility that includes homework supervision.

"Since most of them are orphans and some live with their grandmothers, we also give them a full meal before they go home."

Sue Moola of ABI said government departments such as Health, Social Development and Home Affairs worked closely with the centre to ensure that the children received all the necessary documents to access state grants.

Grade R teacher Nelisiwe Muthwa said the daycare centre catered for 25 children.

"Most of them stay with their grannies who battle to make ends meet and we give parental love to the children," Muthwa said.

"Some do have parents but they are unemployed, so we have to help."

Zakumi played games, entertained and gave out prizes to the children.

"I love Zakumi," said three-year-old Nomfundo Gumede. "I saw him on TV and he is very nice."