The Orphans at Mama Lumka's

Mama Lumka
I heard Mama Lumka's name somewhere before... perhaps it was on the SABC 3 show about her? Perhaps in the printed press or word of mouth? But somewhere it popped up and I knew more or less that she was someone in Nomzamo who looked after abandoned children. This all changed yesterday with one phone call from my friend Stephen Leppan, asking me to come pop in and see what's going on...

For a whitey driving into Nomzamo on my whitey female own was daunting to say the least. Getting lost in among shacks and brick homes, in between half bricks, sand and dust, and people staring at the very obviously lost whitey female was highly uncomfortable, especially having just listened to the noonday news about riots in Grabouw and Vrygrond. When I eventually found the orphanage (which I'd driven past!) my heart was playing djembe on my tonsils!

Then I stepped from my car and thirty or so sparkly eyes and open arms ran to my side! Snotty noses and smiley faces squeezed tightly against my legs and cuddled my anxieties, my other-ness and un-knowing-ness - their welcome a warm reminder of my own children and happy homecomings.

These children, each one of them, smiling up at me and yearning for love in return, are all the product of a society against itself, of parents who cannot take care any longer or who have left this world for good. Their plight is for the immediate - food, shelter, warmth, love. Education is a distant dream and without school clothes, a lunch box or a school bag, it appears all but unattainable. My teacher mommy heart was pounding...

Then I met Mama Lumka, the lady with Kimberley Station for a heart. Her unassuming, humble spirit struck me first. Deep lines etched into her ebony hands where years of detergents, soap and sun left their tale of service to others. Deep lines that lead to the heart of a lioness prowling protectively over her cubs, constantly on the look-out for the slightest sign of danger or an opportunity for her cubs to feed and learn.

Mama Lumka supported by Tata Lumka, started the orphanage in 2003. A substantial donation from Deutsche Bank bought the plot and with further fund raising they were able to erect and kit out the six or so small houses. A full time fund-raiser seemed to work extremely well and raised awareness and substantial funds to support the orphanage and the children there. However, in June last year, the relationship was ended and since then Mama Lumka has been trying to do it all on her own.

Now, more than a year later, we were sitting in Mama Lumka's kitchen. Tears flowed freely down her cherub-like cheeks. The money has all but dried up and she can hardly afford to feed the 29 children (1-15 year olds) till Sunday. Vegetables are a vague memory, fruit is almost non-existent. The things we feed our children almost without thinking. Meat is on the menu once a week. The rest is filled with rice or maize meal dishes, soups, pasta. Something to fill hungry tummies. Money to buy electricity for the meter is all but gone, with food being the greater priority. The washing machine has been broken for some time - explaining the deep lines on Mama Lumka's hands.

With some experience from Kanga-parenting, I ask about ARVs. No, says Mama Lumka, she is not allowed to know or test the status of the children there. This means horrifically that any child there with HIV cannot get onto an ARV program, they are exposing other children unknowingly and heartbreakingly not getting the life-saving medication they might desperately need. With Mama Lumka doing all the washing by hand, with thinning skin, the chance of exposure and transfer is even greater for her.

Shockingly after some probing I hear only two of the children there are receiving government grants. Only two. The eight who can go to school are not - no school clothes, school bags.. and besides, I get told, the schools are full and can't take them because they can't pay. Only a month ago Mama Lumka started the process of registering as an orphanage with the Department of Social Development, so government's financial support will take some time to come through.

I walk outside and see my children running in the dust. I see my little girl's snotty nosed smile, arms flung wide to catch around my legs. I see no difference between my white other-ness and their ebony-being-at-home-ness. They are our children. Our responsibility. Our hearts running outside our bodies.

As a community WE need to take action here. Their biological parents are no longer around but that doesn't mean they have no one who cares. Someone in our community has the time to march to the schools in the area and MAKE space available - community activist style! Someone else has time to petition Woollies, Pick 'n Pay, the new Checkers with it's shiny green trolleys, for weekly supplies of fresh fruit and veg, or the butcheries in Strand or the bakeries in Somerset West for weekly donations. Someone else has the time to collect and deliver! Someone somewhere in the Helderberg is cleaning out children's almost new shoes, books, toys, puzzles, and someone else has the heart and finances to buy electricity for the meters! Someone else might even have the time to go and work in the Community Garden every so often and get veggies growing that will nourish tummies in a wonderful way!

These are OUR children. We CAN and WILL make a difference. We, Helderbergers, CAN do this!

Here's what you can do:

  • Drop donations at the Farm House restaurant off Calendon Street in Somerset West. One of us will collect and drop off. 
  • COME VISIT! I promise you - whitey's (even on their own!), creameys, chocolaties - we're all MORE than welcome and Mama Lumka's is extremely easy to find (now that I know!) Email for directions:
  • Donate your time and energy - come help sort out social issues such as schooling or arrange for donations from businesses. If you're an ex-teacher or would like to just jump in and help, come - you're WELCOME!
  • Come help or work in the garden with Charl du Plessis - email for details.
  • You can buy electricity? Great! Send your electricity vouchers to: and we'll get it pinned into the meters. (See the photo of the meter numbers below!

Do something today for someone who can never repay you. Love is the change the world has been waiting for. 

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