From humble beginnings

2016-03-08 06:00
Ethembeni Crisis Centre founder, Abegail Mbongwa-Dlame  Photo: nosipho mkhize

Ethembeni Crisis Centre founder, Abegail Mbongwa-Dlame Photo: nosipho mkhize

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ETHEMBENI Crisis Centre founder Abegail Mbongwa-Dlame was a professional baker, but didn’t realise her true passion until 1996 when she entered a baking competition.
“In 1996 I entered a baking competition hosted by Blue Ribbon and Tastic Rice at Maharani Hotel in Durban. To my surprise I achieved first place and one of the prizes was a bursary to study community development in 1997.

“I graduated in 1999 and received a certificate in community development. I got another offer to study project management at ML Sultan Technical College. The bursary was funded by Tzu Chu in China.”

After graduating she started an organisation Qoqisizwe, a community project that focused on job creation.
“We trained the community how to sustain an income using their skills and taught them how to sew, start a vegetable garden, bake, cook and start co-operatives. “During that time HIV/Aids was high in communities and people were not well educated about the disease and we were losing members because of this and we had to act fast.”

Mbongwa-Dlame spoke to councillors who advised her to establish a rehabilitation centre for people infected and affected by HIV/Aids.
“Councillors referred me to the Rotarians in Pinetown who gave me R20 000 to start a rehab centre. Rotarians then referred me to Open Door Crisis Centre in Pinetown, who told me to change the whole concept.
“They said instead of opening a rehab centre I should open a crisis centre and Ethembeni Crisis Centre was born in 2003.

“After the organisation was registered we looked for community members to train. In 2004 Operation Jump Start bought us a house in Kwandengezi, which we converted into our main office, and in 2006 we got a subsidy from the Department of Social Development.”

Ethembeni's purpose is to counsel abused people, train volunteers and conduct awareness campaigns in the community and schools.
“We discovered that some of the women are victims of domestic violence because they are financially dependant on their husbands, so we spoke to Independent Development Trust [IDT] to help us employ women.
“IDT then trained local women under the environmental clean-up sector and paid them a stipend so they can take care of themselves.”

“Ethembeni gave birth to another project - Shushuzela Care Centre - which cares for 72 children who are normally left with their grandmother by irresponsible parents. We have five qualified teachers and we operate from Monday to Wednesday.”

Ethembeni has five satellite centres -Nazareth, Dassenhoek, Kwasanti and Kwadesai - where volunteers provide counselling and refer clients to the main office for further screening.”

She said her wish is for the organisation to be more centrally situated.
“It is hard for us because our offices are in the community and sometimes people want to attack us because of our awareness campaigns, which promotes saying no to sex without a condom and some men think we are here to destroy them.”

For more information, contact 031 704 6640 or email abegail.siza@gmail.com

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