Loving her neighbours like herself

Marieta Groenewald from Clocolan in the Free State is driven by her passion for children. She believes the future of our country lies in the hands of the younger generations. In her quest to afford destitute children, love, dignity and support, she founded two children’s homes, among others, in the town. Annelie Coleman reports.

Loving her neighbours like herself
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Marieta Groenewald believes that it is every South African’s responsibility to support the needy and deprived. “If these people achieve self respect and realise their own potential, we will turn South Africa around. Moral decay and poverty are destroying our country. We have to be a servant to each other.” Although she is actively involved in the mixed farming enterprise that she and her husband Jan run on Goewerneurskop in the Clocolan district, but she still finds time to co-ordinate a number of social upliftment projects in town.

Marieta and Jan have given a helping hand to the Sotho community in Clocolan since they got married. One of the highlights for the couple was the arrival of their 21-year-old adopted son Tsepho Mabaso. His mom died shortly after his birth and he was found among a group of women who were working on the Groenewald’s farm.

Jan and Marieta Groenewald’s adopted son Tsepho Mabaso with his niece Danielle Smit. photo by Marieta Groenewald

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The women claimed that Tsepho’s mom was ‘calling’ him and that he would die anyway. Marieta and Jan took Tsepho into their home and raised him. Tsepho, who is studying theology, describes Marieta as an amazing mother who loves her neighbour like herself. “My mom has a heart for people. She serves God and has a wonderfully positive outlook on life,” he says.

Children in dire circumstances
In 2003 Marieta chanced upon two young boys begging in the streets of Clocolan. She gave them bread and took them home to protect them from the bigger street children who were trying to take the bread from them. “They lived in a ramshackle hut with their dying mother. They had no food and very little else.’’ While in that street, a girl of about 13 carrying an emaciated baby asked for maize meal to feed the baby and paraffin to cook it with. That girl was looking after a terminally ill mother too as well as a younger brother who was also begging for food.

In another instance, three other young destitute boys were brought to the Groenewalds and this is when she realised that they simply cannot allow the children to fend for themselves under such unimaginable poor conditions. She worked tirelessly to find safe accommodation and care for the street children and eventually founded two children’s homes in Clocolan. Currently some 50 children are accommodated in the homes.

Marieta Groenewald has saved many homeless children from starvation and a bleak future.

Marieta says the general public is more than willing to help this deserving cause. Assistance came from as far afield as Europe, Germany and Canada. The homes were also supported by the local farming community who generously donated food. “To this day the farmers regularly supply the homes with vegetables, maize meal, eggs and chickens. Two butchers in town supply meat.”

Support for the cause
The children were initially housed in a home belonging to one of Marieta’s five volunteers. “We found most of the children on the local rubbish dumps.’’ Three volunteers cared for them for three years. She realised the situation could not continue as is, and eventually asked the Dutch Reformed Church for assistance. The church agreed and purchased a block of flats where 30 children are currently living.

A Canadian friend of mine, Jennifer Beresford of Vancouver donated R480 000 for the second home. The home is currently run by a local NGO and accommodates 20 children. Marieta strongly believes in passing on the baton. She initiated the homes but needed to pass the responsibility on to the relevant organisations. This has freed her to concentrate on other issues in the community.

One being the large number of children that are taken care of by a single parent or grandparent. Marieta and her team of volunteers have started a home industry for these caretakers. They are taught a variety of skills such as sowing, knitting and weaving. The items they make are sold at the Lethoteng shop in Clocolan. “We had to create a source of income for these people. Many of them do not have access to social grants or pensions simply because they do not have identification papers, Marieta states.

Regina Sekola, an accomplished needlewoman, also works at Lethoteng where she makes school uniforms.

After-care centre “We are working towards an after-care centre to help the children with their homework and to provide at least one balanced meal per day. This will also include a home industry where people can come and work on their crafts. We already have a venue but need about R20 000 to get it up and running.” Marieta wants to develop the children’s and point them in the direction of a positive future.

Rehabilitation of life on the street is exceedingly difficult. ‘‘But we have to do everything we can to offer as many children as possible a stable and loving environment to grow up in. I have seen many children blossom and develop into well-adjusted young adults. For example, the two boys I found in 2003 have developed into young men who are attending school and working part-time. I thank the Lord for the grace He bestowed upon me to do this work.”

Contact Marieta Groenewald on 082 568 3643 or at [email protected]