Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Chronicle Reporter
SOME of them have been labelled witches, others committed unforgivable offences; some got separated from their families, while others were merely abandoned by their loved ones.
Whatever the case, the estranged residents at the Gwanda Old People’s Home have found solace at the institution. The home has five residents. Some of them arrived while critically ill, but they were nursed until they recovered.
Some get visits from relatives once in a while. They have learnt to keep each other company. The residents also treasure visits they get from well-wishers who interact with them and leave behind donations such as groceries and clothing.
Most of the residents that come to the home are referred by the Department of Social Welfare.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the home, one resident Mr Niton Moyo (89) was excited as he had just received a new pair of reading spectacles. He said he would now be able to read his Bible.
Mr Moyo who is from Gwanda has been staying at the home for the past three years. He said he had nine children and when he left his home five of them had passed on.
Mr Moyo also lost his wife. He said he was labelled a wizard in his community and he was chased away. Mr Moyo said his children believed the fabrications about him and also abandoned him.
“I was chased away from my home and I had nowhere to go. My children didn’t want anything to do with me and I didn’t have any means of sustaining myself as I’m now old. I found my way to Gwanda Town and I was picked up by people who led me to the Department of Social Welfare. I was then referred to the home and that’s how I got to stay here,” he said.
“My fellow residents here at the home as well as the people who look after us here have become my family. I’m content with being here and this will be my home up until the Lord decides to take me to a better place.”
Ms Agnes Ndlovu (101) from Mangwe District arrived at the home in October last year. She does not have children. Before moving to the home she was staying with her relatives.
Ms Ndlovu said she was being ill treated to the extent that she reported the matter to the village head who linked her with the Department of Social Welfare.
“If you don’t have children of your own and you have become of age like me it’s hard to find people that will look after you. Sometimes people may see you as a burden considering the challenges that come with taking care of someone of my age. This place is now my home, I eat and I’m taken good care of here,” she said.
Mr Johanne Paulo (81) has been staying at the home for the past 17 years. He was referred to the home in 2005 by the Department of Social Welfare. Mr Paulo said he and his wife became enstranged when he started developing a mental problem. He said his wife and children sometimes visit him at the home.
Mr Paulo said he was content with staying at the home and had no desire to leave. He said a number of residents who were like brothers to him had passed on.
“I have been here the longest and I don’t think there is any other place which I can call home or see as my home. My fellow residents who were like brothers to me have passed on and this was a really sad experience for me. I’m just taking one day as it comes and waiting for the day when the Lord will call me,” he said.
Gwanda Old People’s Home co-ordinator, Ms Ruth Zulu said the people who come to the institution are mostly the underprivileged elderly that come through the Department of Social Welfare. She said most have been estranged from their families due to various reasons.
Ms Zulu said most of the elderly people at the home stay there until they die and do not reunite with their families. She said the home only facilitated reunion with the family upon request from the resident.
Ms Zulu said some residents die and the home buries them in the absence of relatives due to conflicts.
“We mainly receive underprivileged elderly people through the Department of Social Welfare. Most of the residents arrive here in a critical condition and we nurse then until they recover. Some of them will be living like vagabonds. Basically the residents are here for various reasons. Some were neglected by their children while some were estranged from their families because of various reasons,” she said.
“Others are holding grudges, others don’t have children that can look after them while others neglected their children who are now returning the favour. As an institution our mandate is to provide our residents with a home where they can feel safe and welcomed without being judged for their past actions.”
She said some residents try to reconnect with their families but they end up returning to the home as they prefer the environment more. Ms Zulu said for most residents the home was their last home before going to their final resting place.
She said they did all they could to make the home as comfortable as possible for the residents but resources were a challenge.
Ms Zulu said the home was a referral point for Matabeleland South Province. She said it did not have funding which made it difficult to sustain it. Ms Zulu said they sometimes receive allocations under Government’s food relief programmes through the Department of Social Welfare. She said they also rely on assistance they get from well wishers such as members of the business community, institutions and individuals.
“We receive residents from various districts across the province. We are responsible for their medication, clothing and food among other things. If the medication isn’t there at the hospital we have to buy from the pharmacies. It’s our desire to make our residents as comfortable as possible but resources are a constraint as we don’t have funding,” she said.
“We would appreciate all the help we can get especially with funds to buy electricity, medication, groceries, ambulance costs for referrals and to engage specialists for residents that needed them.”[email protected]