Centre beacon of hope

2017-05-03 06:01
The Thabang Old Age Club facility in Freedom Square, Bloemfontein, was officially opened by stakeholders. Cutting a ribbon to open the centre are, from the left, Patrick Moroagae (club founding member), Vijay Rajaram (Sun Windmill community social investment committee), Neo Sehularo (stakeholder) and Elisa Mohlahlo (club manager).Photo: Teboho Setena

The Thabang Old Age Club facility in Freedom Square, Bloemfontein, was officially opened by stakeholders. Cutting a ribbon to open the centre are, from the left, Patrick Moroagae (club founding member), Vijay Rajaram (Sun Windmill community social investment committee), Neo Sehularo (stakeholder) and Elisa Mohlahlo (club manager).Photo: Teboho Setena

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A fully-fledged centre, the Thabang Old Age Club, is a beacon of hope, not only for the elderly, but also for the community at large.

The centre is caring for elderly people in Freedom Square, Bloemfontein.

It is located in a community plagued by a number of social challenges, like rising unemployment.

The construction of the facility was made possible by Sun Windmill, who purchased land and building material and paid for the construction labour, including the fencing.

Elmarie Fitzmaurice of Sun Windmill says the entity forked out R720 000 towards the realisation of the facility which houses approximately 49 elderly people.

The facility boasts a boardroom, kitchen and storeroom.

In addition, an in-house consulting room where first-aid is rendered was also included in the plan.

Fitzmaurice says the idea to include a consulting room is important for routine medical check-ups by some members trained and know­ledgeable in first-aid.

“The process to build the facility began in 2010 when we purchased the land to build the facility. It was delayed, because we have been waiting on the municipality to issue the title deed which we only got in September last year.

“The decision to build a fully-fledged centre is part of our community social investment project to improve people’s lives,” says Fitzmau­rice.

Fitzmaurice says the decision was also influenced by findings and analyses of the adverse conditions of the aged in Freedom Square. She says the process was undertaken during outreach campaigns which include the Nelson Mandela Day campaign.

Fitzmaurice says the committee members of the old age club first approached the casino management asking for a donation, paving the way for planning of the construction of this fully-fledged facility.

Ensuring sustainability of the centre in catering to elderly people, the casino also provided R200 000 towards setting up a vegetable garden in which different cultivars are grown. These include carrots, tomatoes, peppers, beans, cabbage and spinach.

The club is already reaping the rewards of the investment by Sun Windmill from the garden and the facility, which also attracted volunteers offering services. The size of the facility is big enough to be utilised for community functions.

Elisa Mohlahlo, manager, says with the vegetable garden producing more than they have expected, they will consider selling some of the products to generate an income to sustain the centre.

She says the centre serves as day care for elderly people who are left without care.

Operating hours are from 08:30 to 14:30 daily. She says registered members are served two meals a day, breakfast and lunch.

Founding member Patrick Moroagae expresses joy at having a fully-fledged centre and garden, saying it has relieved them of the burden to pay rent and of the struggle to source food.

He says the club started in 1996 with approximately 60 people. But with the complex challenges they had been experiencing, he says some people quit.

“It has been a tough journey for us having started off renting a two-room dwelling which was not enough to accommodate all club members. We also had the challenge to pay rent. But it is something of the past, now that we have a facility of our own,” says Moroagae.

Moroagae says the vulnerability of elder persons in the Freedom Square settlement motivated him and other members to establish the club 21 years ago.

He says of the founding members who are still active in the committee, there are four, including him.

Ben Petrus, club coordinator, says other members joined later, while others were co-opted to serve in the managing affairs of the club.

He says the club entirely depends on grants from private donors such as Sun Windmill and government.

Petrus says they have programmes such as sport and skills development for members.

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