Meet Mam’ Cetyiswa Sigonyela, one of the current participants in the Mamelani Community Champions Programme. Born and raised in Alice Eastern Cape, Mam’ Cetyiswa loves working with the marginalised communities assisting those in need and she is always ready to stretch her arms and spread the love. This is Cetyiswa’s story… “I have always had a passion to work with people in the community and while I was still living in Alice, I used to volunteer at the clinics doing homebased care. I later moved to Philippi in Cape Town after my marriage ended, where I started doing community work again. This work involved volunteering with other women doing home based care and also identifying and helping abused children in the community, referring their cases to the responsible offices such as clinics and social workers. One day as I was doing my work I decided to visit one of my friends Nozi, who also stays in Philippi. When I got there she was attending a Mamelani wellness workshop facilitated by Thandi Blie, who told me that I was welcome to stay for the workshop if I was interested. So I decided to stay. I found the workshop informative and relevant to the work I was doing in my community so that is how I got to know of Mamelani… like they say, the rest is history! In 2016 I applied and was selected to participate in the Community Champions Programme. I am currently attending the sessions for this programme and I love it because I am being empowered and given sound advice on how to work with the community. The Mamelani facilitators are very friendly and are always there to support us. I have learnt a lot from the facilitators at Mamelani.
One thing I really love about the relationship we have is that we get the chance to express ourselves. The Champions process provides a space for us to share with each other about the different work we are all doing to develop our communities and share our knowledge and experiences. Mamelani has also helped me learn more about chronic dieses and where to go to address different issues in our community, bringing a ray of hope to the people in the communities we live and work in. I am someone who enjoys working with people – I feel good when I do something to change or make a difference in the lives of others. I currently play various roles in my community including being a SANCO member, Supervisor of the Community Work Programmes (CPW) and the Deputy Chairperson of the Dutch Reformed Church, Mothers Union. As someone with a passion for helping the people around me, I use these various roles in the community to identify problems in our area and refer them to the responsible people. In some cases take it upon myself, along with a group of women I work with, to assist the marginalised and abused people in our community. After identifying that some people in our community could not access the services that they need for various reasons, I decided to start a community group that would provide community home-based care and support to the people in need. I started a community group called “Lathitha Ilanga,” a Xhosa name which means “the sun shines.” This group is made up of an amazing group of 15 women based in Philippi. Lathitha Ilanga is mostly responsible for home visits, providing support and identifying the needs of the vulnerable, elderly and sick people in the community, reporting cases that need special attention to community leaders, police and home affairs – depending on the need. We are also doing workshops with young people in our area raising awareness about drugs, safe sex, health and hygiene. In addition to that, we are also teaching and encouraging them to use their hands, to be self-sufficient and creative through skills development projects and cooperatives such as sewing and gardening which they can use to sustain themselves and their families.
My dream is for all the Lathitha Ilanga women that I work with to get official home-based care training and also to have a hospice at my place in Philippi one day. I see people suffering every day in my community. I also dream of having centre that will help people who are addicted to drugs because at the moment I cannot really do anything to help except refer them to a centre far away from the community. I feel that it would be better if we could also have a rehab centre in the Philippi area or at least close by. I would like to encourage all the women and men in my community to attend the Mamelani Workshops because they are very informative. Also, I would also like to appeal for donations to buy equipment for checking people’s blood pressure and sugar levels, when we do our home visits because we do not have that kind of equipment at the moment.” Mamelani is honoured to be working hand in hand with Mam’ Cetyiswa to improve the lives of those around her. She is a beacon of hope in her community and a true example of a Community Champion!