Mama Portia dishes out help for Aids orphans

2012-06-11 17:40

Johannesburg - With woollen hats covering their heads from early morning chills, dozens of children troop into a courtyard for a bowl of hot cereal in Alexandra township.

Most of them have lost parents to Aids, but thanks to Portia Mongake, popularly known as Mama Portia, they can have a meal or two each day.

After she left her abusive husband 16 years ago, Mama Portia found new meaning in life by assisting those who need help the most in her township.

Each day she feeds hundreds of children orphaned by Aids - from toddlers to teenagers.

The 52-year-old roars to life at dawn in a courtyard bordered by a church, a row of toilets and her own makeshift house to start preparing food for her big "family".

"The situation they find themselves in is very hard, and very painful. Those who are living by themselves, it's a problem, because most of the time they don't know where the next meal will come from," sighs Mama Portia.

"If there's no food here, then they will sleep without food."

About 120 orphans come in for breakfast while twice that number show up for a late lunch served after school. Some eat there, while others take away to eat at home.

"Almost every day, we eat porridge so that we have something in our stomachs because without anything in our stomachs, we can't learn, we will be lazy at school," says Sinah, 15.

Assisted by her daughter and a handful of volunteers, Mama Portia not only cooks but also helps the children with their homework and organises activities, thanks to donations from local companies and well-wishers.

"We are like a family for them," smiles Mama Portia, who says she draws strength from her deep faith in God.

She founded the "family" 12 years ago when a friend died of Aids and she immediately took custody of her four children.

We haven't missed a meal since 2001

Her initiative is just one of many "mama" family groups that take care of children orphaned by Aids in a country with almost six million people living with HIV and Aids.

Statistics on poor children in South Africa are staggering. Some 11.9 children out of a total of 18.6 million live in poverty, according to Unicef. More than a fifth of them go hungry.

Around 3.5 million of them are orphans, two million orphaned by Aids.

About 10.3 million poor children live off government monthly stipends of R270 each, meaning more than a million others do without.

"We haven't missed a meal since 2001," boasts Barry Moyle, a friend who comes to give Mama Portia a hand. Companies and individuals donate most of the food as well as clothes, blankets and school supplies.

"By the grace of God everything comes, but we need to be organised," said Moyle, who plans to set up a proper foundation to help with fundraising.

Mama Portia's helping hand reaches out not only to children. She also organises support groups, such as one for women who are HIV-positive.

She has expanded her scheme to feed about 50 grandmothers who do not have anyone else to turn to.

"I just come here so the lady can help me, to give me something to eat. She has changed my life," says 75-year-old Tabia Mofulatsi before the distribution of fruit and the mielie meal.

Still, despite winning an award for her work, Mama Portia faces immense challenges.

She was kicked out of her previous home by the neighbours. Along with her children and volunteers, she now squats in what was supposed to be a public garden next to church, nursery school and doctors' rooms.

She shares her two-room dwelling, consisting of a kitchen and a living room that doubles as an office, with several adults and 10 children - and other creatures.

"I sleep here every day," says Sophie, Mama Portia's daughter. "You must come here and experience the rats!"

  • maylani.bezuidenhout - 2012-06-11 18:31

    Please post her banking details so that I can make a donation - 2012-06-11 18:45

      Mama Portia was NOT thrown out of alexander township, she fled. She embezeled hundreds of thousands of rands out of corporate donors, as far as i know she is still being sought by Clovers Mama Afrika, she uses the children and the lil kitchen she has as leverage. Do ur homework before you invest in her. There are by faaaaaaar many legit feeding schemes

      Barry - 2012-06-12 09:25

      @ - I have been involved with Abangani E Nkosini since 2006 and have seen no evidence of what you claim. Please come and visit us at 91 - 18th Avenue in Alexandra, any time, even unannounced, please come and see, examine, investigate & even roll up your sleeves and help, you are most welcome. Please publish any factual findings you make anywhere you would like. If you want facts about specific things, feel free to e-mail me at . Portia lives a life of poverty but is rich in spirit as she is able to serve & help many

  • - 2012-06-11 18:50

    This mama portia is a fraud, she was given 3 income generating projects by corporates and she just embezzeled them out of hundreds of rands of money. News24 should do their homework. I worked for a company that places projects in such enviroments. I dealt with mama portia personally. Shes a liar and a thief and makes money by showing a few kids with snotty noses and pap on a stove then spends the money donated on herself

      maylani.bezuidenhout - 2012-06-11 19:32

      Sad that there seem to be so many 'mamas' out doing this...

      jacky.stapelberg - 2012-06-11 20:16

      Yip, she received a R 100 000,OO from 94.7 last year for the Christmas wish... after corporates(our company for one) gave the children a massive XMas party, food, gifts etc... Very very sad

      Barry - 2012-06-12 09:05

      Its amazing how quick people are to judge and sensationalise based on the opinion of an unidentifyable source. There are credible companies coming on board and doing due dilligence not finding any of these accusations to be true, as I know from my personal involvement for the past 6 years. Why do we label things we do not know anything about or are not involved in? Come on, get involved, find out the facts and let's be part of solutions.

      Barry - 2012-06-12 09:27

      @ Jacky - Yes, she was a benefactor of the Chrismas Wish with 94.7. The breakfast team came on a truck with a Father Christmas and gave presents. The R100 000 from Makro was extremely generous and amounts to R8 333.33 per month for requirements over 12 months which she uses for non-perishable foods, kitchen equipment & eating utensils.

      Barry - 2012-06-12 12:29

      @jacky.stapelberg - I'm sitting with Portia & she sends love and misses you. Thank you for all the good you have done. Portia still sees Mahlaku often.

      Barry - 2012-06-12 12:38

      Portia did not receive any cash from Makro, she goes there once a month and is given the allowance to spend there.

  • Thulile Fairlady - 2012-06-11 19:08

    Well done Mama portia i think we can get ur bank details so we can make donation

  • douglas.riggle - 2012-06-11 21:55

    What a great work! There are so many orphans around the globe without having basic needs met. If only we had more people like Mama Portia! Douglas Riggle, President Orphan World Relief

      Barry - 2012-06-12 09:11

      Thank you Douglas, you should meet Portia, a simple woman with great faith, passion and a heart of a servant. She has achieved so much beyond her circumstances by simply caring enough to take action in dire circumstances.

  • Barry - 2012-06-12 09:30

    Sorry, I posted bank details & then was advised it was not a good idea. If you would like to help, e-mail me at

      campbelldesiree95 - 2012-06-12 10:28

      Hi,I am from Alexandra and have relocated but would like to get my hands dirty and assist over weekends and public holidays when available.

      Barry - 2012-06-12 11:23

      @ campbelldesiree95 - Come visit at 91 - 18th Avenue, Alexandra, you are most welcome.

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