Raymond Jaravaza in Tsholotsho
LITTLE Dineo dashes into the house from school, throws her school bag on the sofa and rushes to whisper something into her mother’s ears.
She doesn’t mind that there are visitors – Tsholotsho Senator Alice Dube and a Saturday Chronicle news crew – because her only concern is relaying an important message from her teacher to her mother.
Simangele Ndebele is the only mother that Dineo has ever known though she is not her biological mother.
They are not even related but the two are inseparable.
Seven years ago, Ndebele adopted Dineo when she was just two weeks old.
Dineo’s biological mother suffers from a mental condition and was not in a state to take care of her child.
The “Mother Teresa of Tsholotsho” heard the heart-rending story and without thinking twice took the little girl under her wing and today Dineo is in Grade Two at a local school, has a stable home, a loving mother and friends at school.
She has no idea that the woman she calls mum is not her biological mother.
Ndebele and her husband, Mkhumbulo, are the unsung heroes of Tsholotsho who have turned their home into a place of safety for abandoned and abused children in Tsholotsho.
For years they have opened their doors and hearts to innocent children whose life circumstances have made them vulnerable.
Through the couple’s work, kids like little Dineo have a roof over their heads, a decent meal before going to school, a lunch box to carry to school and a mother to comfort them when they return home from school.
“She was so tiny when my husband and I took her into our house when we were told that her mother, a mentally challenged woman, had given birth. Sometimes I ask myself how we managed to take care of a two-week-old child who has now grown into a lovely little girl but my answer right now is that God works in mysterious ways.
“She is a blessing in our lives and I pray every day that she grows up to be a good child who excels at school,” said Ndebele.
After relaying the message from her teacher to her mother, little Dineo goes to the kitchen to get herself something to eat.
It’s evident even to us strangers that mother and daughter have a special bond – an unbreakable bond.
“How are we going to tell her one day that we are not her biological parents? She is just a child who deserves to live a good life and I’m happy that we have become her parents that are giving her that life’,” says Ndebele.
Young Dineo is not the first child that the Ndebele family have adopted. But how did their philanthropic work start?
“My husband is a pastor and some years ago we heard a story about a child who had been abandoned at a police station in Sipepa. We went there and asked the police if we could take care of the child while the Social Welfare Department looked for a foster home for her.
“We took care of her for a month until the Social Welfare Department took her to a children’s home in Bulawayo. Since then, we have taken care of more than 30 children.
The Social Welfare Department in Tsholotsho has been very helpful in the sense that when we take care of an abused or abandoned child here in Tsholotsho, they come to us and take that child to a place of safety or a children’s home,” said Ndebele.
The Ndebeles live at Tsholotsho Centre. Their wish is to get beds, blankets and clothes for the abandoned and abused children who pass through their hands.
Senator Dube says she is aware of the good work that the Ndebeles are doing to assist the disadvantaged and vulnerable children in the district hence she assists with cash and other resources such as food and clothes.
She said more could be done to help the Ndebeles and she promised to take up the issue to higher levels of Government.
“People talk about the nine-year-old child who gave birth a few days ago but no one mentions that the Ndebele family took the little girl into their home when they heard about the issue and stayed with her right here in this house before the Social Welfare Department took her to a safe house.
“The First Lady uMama uMnangagwa does a lot of good work through her Angel of Hope Foundation and our hope is that the Ndebele family meets the First Lady so that they can explain to her the kind of assistance that they need,” said Senator Dube.
At the mention of the nine-year-old who gave birth, Ndebele got emotional and started crying.
“I cried every night when she was here. My husband would say that we should pray and ask for guidance from God but it was too emotional for me to look at that beautiful child and imagine that an adult had abused her.
I didn’t sleep the day they (Social Welfare Department) took her, she had started calling me mum. I’m happy that she is now in a safe place and well taken care of,” said Ndebele.
The Ndebele family don’t do what they do for glory or recognition. They do it because they believe that doing good is their own way of contributing to the Tsholotsho community.
The Ndebeles are truly the unsung heroes of Tsholotsho. l Dineo is not the child’s real name, we changed the name to protect her real identity.