‘Mother Teresa of Etipini’ began her work at age of 12

CARING: Noluvuyo Zintle Mehlomakhulu , dubbed Etipini ‘s Mother Teresa, with some of the children she assists. Picture: SUPPLIED

CARING: Noluvuyo Zintle Mehlomakhulu , dubbed Etipini ‘s Mother Teresa, with some of the children she assists. Picture: SUPPLIED

Gave her special dress to a girl who was living in desperate conditions, I felt in me that I needed to do something about these people

Noluyolo Zintle Mehlomakhulu , dubbed the “Mother Teresa of Etipini”, was just a 12-year-old girl when she first noticed destitute people and children living at Mthatha local dump site, Etipini.

She immediately pleaded with her mother to allow her to donate her special Christmas dress to a needy young girl in the area.

Mehloamakhulu, now aged 33, has been helping the destitute ever since.

In 2017, she launched the non-profit Touching Acts together with three other women, Anelisiwe Mehlomakhulu , Siziwe Mayoyo and Sibongile Gqaleni. She uses the organisation to drive her passions for helping the poor.

She said after giving her Christmas dress to that girl, her thoughts remained on others who were less privileged than her.

“When I set my foot there (Etipini), my heart was full of love for the area. I have never seen a place like that. The people were living in shacks, some made of boxes and others made of old things.

“I was surprised how these people survived in such an area. It was a big community. Something in me said I needed to do something about these people.

“I started writing to the leadership of my home church, Ngangelizwe Assembly of God, requesting assistance with clothes,” she said

“It was not only about donating food and clothes and preaching, but also assisting with getting identity documents for some residents. As I grew, the vision grew,” she said. Her Etipini ministry expanded during her tertiary years at the University of Fort Hare, where she gathered a team comprising students from other places of learning.

During holidays, the team assisted Etipini residents with food and clothing while also looking at problems they could help to rectify within the community. The team also liaised with Sassa to help residents access grants.

In 2012, the residents’ shacks were demolished because the area was believed to be harbouring criminals.

This was the end of Etipini and the emergence of Soweto where the residents found shelter near Mthatha Plaza.

“Soweto is like Etipini in the sense that there is high rate of crime, high use of alcohol. It is not a conducive environment for children to live in,” Mehlomakhulu said.

While working as trainee auditor in 2012, Mehlomakhulu managed to assist two girls from Etipini to further their studies.

Siziwe Mayoyo, now 26, was 16 years old when she met Mehlomakhulu in 2009. In 2018, she graduated with a public relations management diploma from Walter Sisulu University.

Miselwa Makholwa, 26, graduated with social work degree from the University of Fort Hare in 2017.

“She [ Mehlomakhulu ] is such a Godsend. I wonder what would my life would have been without her. She is the Mother Teresa of the Etipini community. When my father died in March 2011 and mother in July the same year, she was like a mother and father to me and my siblings.

“She continues to be like that. I now stay with her at her house,'' said Mayoyo.

Mehlomakhulu said: “It is heart-warming to find girls from Etipini who are enriching themselves educationally.

“One of the non-profit’s goals is to now assist homeless and disadvantaged children to access to quality education and empower them so they can become dynamic future leaders. The children are getting counselling through camps we hold during school holidays and we are also now working with a social worker from the education department in Mthatha.

Mehlomakhu has this year secured funding and sent 22 children to a boarding

“These children have experienced unfavourable conditions, some have seen people being shot,” she said.

Article by: LULAMILE FENI - lulamilef@dispatch.co.za