Etafeni gives hope to the hopeless

Ntombekhaya Makhabeni is in high spirits as she irons some of the finished products.

After many years of battling to overcome the stigma attached to it, Etafeni Centre in Nyanga is now thriving, giving hope to the hopeless and support and love to the needy.

The centre was established in 2003 – at a time when there was even more stigma around HIV/Aids – to render support and care to individuals affected and infected by the disease.

It had to overcome a lot of hurdles from the surrounding community while getting people to learn more about the pandemic.

The centre is now a symbol of hope for many women from Nyanga and the surrounding areas of Crossroads, Gugulethu and Philippi.

It offers support and training while building their self-esteem through the Women Wellness and Skills Development programme.

The programme equips women with sewing and business skills so they can sustain themselves and their families. The women are trained for six months to become businesswomen.

A total of 35 women are trained every six months, and the next group of women is expected to start the training in January.

As part of their ongoing training, the women recently put together a range of garments including skirts, shorts and T-shirts for needy children from six pre-schools around Nyanga.

Programme manager Teresa Lumani said the idea was to encourage the women “to think out of the box” and evaluate their progress since joining the programme in June. They made the items from T-shirts donated to the centre by fast food outlet Hungry Lion.

Ms Lumani said they had realised the T-shirts would not be any good unless they were used for something else.

So the women had thought of innovative ways to use the shirts. “They all come with different ideas to help the children,” she said. “Some came up with shirts, skirts and shorts.”

For two months, they worked tirelessly, putting together close to 400 clothing items for children, and, as part of Heritage Day celebrations, the items were given to the six pre-schools, Soyisile, Ivy Nyovane, Sisonke, Siseko, Ithemba Labantwana and Ilitha Lethu, during a ceremony at the centre.

Ms Lumani said the work proved that the women had grasped a lot since they joined the programme. “We already have people who are on a waiting list for next year,” she said.

The women are referred to the centre by counsellors from local clinics, while others are “walk-in” patients who are referred by a social worker based at the centre. “We have made a lot of progress from when we started,” she said.

In the past, women would spend up to 18 months on the programme before going back to society. Now they only spend six months.

Ms Lumani said all those who took part in the programme left as better individuals with high self-esteem.

“Once they are gone, they are still welcome to come back for assistance if they find themselves in trouble or not knowing what to do.

“Some of them have managed to go back to society and find work,” said Ms Lumani.

One of the women, Ntombekhaya Makhabeni, said she had joined the organisation after her husband died. She said it had uplifted her confidence and self-esteem.

“My mindset has since changed a lot,” she said. “I have got a lot of strength. My children are also happy. I can now put food on the table.”

Ms Makhabeni said she wanted to start her own business.

“If I had means I would stay here for longer and learn more,” said Ms Makhabeni.