Elder knitter spreads warmth

2019-09-17 06:00
Sarah “Ma Sally” Dantu (centre) surrounded by her angels: her husband Joseph and members of The Shining Light (from left) Pauline Williams, Charlotte Frazenberg, Johanna Stephens, Rhonda Arendse, Hohanna Bloys, Cathlene Roman and Wilemina Felix. Sarah “Ma Sally” Dantu (centre) surrounded by her angels: her husband Joseph and members of The Shining Light (from left) Pauline Williams, Charlotte Frazenberg, Johanna Stephens, Rhonda Arendse, Hohanna Bloys, Cathlene Roman and Wilemina Felix. PHOTOs: Benita Jaftha

Sarah “Ma Sally” Dantu (centre) surrounded by her angels: her husband Joseph and members of The Shining Light (from left) Pauline Williams, Charlotte Frazenberg, Johanna Stephens, Rhonda Arendse, Hohanna Bloys, Cathlene Roman and Wilemina Felix. Sarah “Ma Sally” Dantu (centre) surrounded by her angels: her husband Joseph and members of The Shining Light (from left) Pauline Williams, Charlotte Frazenberg, Johanna Stephens, Rhonda Arendse, Hohanna Bloys, Cathlene Roman and Wilemina Felix. PHOTOs: Benita Jaftha

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Known dotingly as Ma Sally by all the lives she has touched through her altruistic nature, Sarah Dantu (80) is one of the six finalists being honoured at the Community Champions Elders Awards.

Ma Sally from Belhar is one of three finalists nominated in the 80+ category of the awards presented by People’s Post, TygerBurger and City Vision in partnership with Spec-Savers.

She hand-knits jerseys and delivers them to schools where she feels there is a need.

“I do it out of love, nothing else,” says Ma Sally. “I don’t ask, I knit the jerseys. When it’s cold I think ‘Oh, there’s a child with a jersey on’.”

Ma Sally, who is a retired domestic assistant, says knitting is therapeutic to her.

“For me, it’s like a therapy. It keeps my brain working.”

Ma Sally, who grew up in the countryside of Groot Drankenstein, moved to Cape Town at the age of 17 following her parents’ divorce in the late 1950s.

“I had to leave school to go work before completing my senior certificate. Then I came to Cape Town in my early years and started working as a domestic servant until I got married to my husband,” she says.

“18 January 1969,” her husband Joseph adds to the conversation.

According to Ma Sally, she had a relatively stable life from then. “I had a place to stay in District 6. We lived there for 10 years, in a room. Then we bought this little house and we’re still here, for 40 years.”

Ma Sally and Joseph have two daughters: José Franz who is deputy vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, and Deirdre Spandiel, an occupational therapist in George.

Ma Sally says, she gave up working as a domestic assistant 30 years ago when her first grandchild, Jody, was born so that José could return to her studies.

“That’s when I carried on with my love for knitting,” says Ma Sally, who believes that those whom she knits for don’t have to know where the jerseys come from. She says there is no greater feeling than being able to continue serving the world.

“Like I say, it’s like a therapy,” explains Ma Sally. “Knowing that I can do good at this age is a feeling money can’t buy.”

Ma Sally is regarded as a high mother figure in The Shining Light social community group she belongs to. She says she is thankful above all that she and her husband have set a foundation for their children and grandchildren to continue the tradition of serving their communities.

“I thank God that my children and grandchildren are giving,” Ma Sally says. “I wrote this morning in my memory book that it’s all by God’s grace, nothing else. We have nothing without God’s grace.”

Despite having five grandchildren, Ma Sally says she does not knit for her grandchildren’s school.

“I don’t knit for a school where my grandchildren go, because their parents can afford. I am knitting for schools where there is a need.”

Ma Sally says she prefers good quality wool and ensures to always source wool accordingly. “I always buy the best wool. When you do something for the Lord, you give your best – that’s my belief.”

She was nominated for a Community Champions Elders Award by Parkvale Primary through one of the school’s regular volunteer assistants, Rhonda Arendse.

“Ma Sally is a loving, caring, wingless angel,” Arendse wrote in the nomination. “Every year she hand-knits jerseys for the needy learners at our school, all this done at no cost.” She produces eight to 10 jerseys at a time for learners, which she distributes freely and at no cost through Arendse.

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