Restoring dignity

LILLIAN AMOS

A woman’s story of heartache turned into one of hope when a Retreat organisation recently helped her reconnect with her family.

Anna Mankapan, 40, came to Cape Town from Loeriesfontein in the Northern Cape more than 15 years ago to look for work, leaving behind her three-year-old daughter.

She was hired as a live-in child minder for a family in Retreat and sent money home to her sister in-law to look after her young child.

It wasn’t long before the family that hired Anna was no longer able to pay her and she was forced to look for another job.

She then worked for another family for a couple of years but after some issues that family could also not afford to pay her any longer.

It was in 2005 that Anna found herself homeless and without money to go back to her family in Loeriesfontein. She then met her partner Desmond Koensen and the two roamed the street and did odd jobs to earn money to feed themselves but they were still homeless.

“Desmond worked here and there and I also did odd jobs, but I would mostly ‘skarrel’ for money. We slept under bridges, behind buildings and wherever we could find a place,” said Anna.

In 2006 the couple collected material and put up a shack at Kaveladorp, an informal settlement off Nectar Road in Retreat.

Meanwhile Anna had lost all contact with her daughter and family back in Loeriesfontein.

A few years ago however, Desmond became sick and couldn’t do odd jobs anymore. There was no real income and the couple had to make a way for food.

It was then that Anna and Desmond got in touch with Dan Ag, a non-profit organisation based in Retreat.

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Dan Ag runs a soup kitchen at Crestway High School and in Nectar Road every week, providing a two warm meal to the homeless, those living in informal settlements and families in need.

Denise Delcarme, project co-ordinator for Dan Ag said the aim if the soup kitchen is to identify individual needs and direct them to the organisation’s offices at Crestway High School in Joe Marks Boulevard in Retreat.

“We see who needs help with either clothing, blankets and to give advice to those who need it. The organisation also refers cases to social workers and services. It was through the feeding soup kitchen that we met Anna and Desmond,” said Denise.

The organisation helped the couple with food, clothes and other items.

In June last year Desmond passed away.

Anna couldn’t work because she herself was suffering from high blood pressure.

“My wish was to go home because I hadn’t seen my family for almost 16 years but I didn’t have any money to travel home,” said Anna

Dan Ag then got in contact with the Loeriesfontein police and after three weeks they found her family.

“I called them and they were so happy to hear from me after all these years,” said an emotional Anna.

“I am so happy. When I first heard that I could go see my daughter I was overwhelmed with emotion because on Mother’s Day my heart was longing to be with my daughter and now thanks to Dan Ag I am going to see her,” she said.

Denise said the organisation was happy to assist Anna

“We know that there are many people out there who come to Cape Town in search of greener pastures but many times it doesn’t work out. These people then become homeless or end up in informal settlements,” she said,

“We are glad we could assist her and bring her some hope after all the tragic things that have happened in her life and we hope that we can help many others like Anna,” she said.

On Friday May 27 Anna took a bus to her home town but will return in a few weeks. The organisation will help Anna apply for a Sassa grant to be able to take care of herself.

The organisation depends heavily on donations. The organisation appeals to anyone who can assist donations, ideas for generating income or through any other means.

To assist call Gwen on 076 529 4055 or Denise on 079 172 6476.