Essential workers: ‘This is our chance to continue giving back’

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“You are our unsung heroes and we salute you.”

These were the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa paying tribute to essential workers across the country for their service during the national lockdown.

Hailed for being on the frontlines in the fight against the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, some regard their duty as a continued chance of giving back to the community.

Busisiwe Mtsweni (30) is a nurse who believes that no matter how small, sharing is the ultimate form of caring.

As she puts it, “abantwana bomuntu ba hlephulelana ihloko yenrethe” (sharing is caring, no matter how small).

“I did not have an easy childhood, but I was raised by a single mother who inspired me to give to others even if I didn’t have much myself,” she said.

Read: Essential services workers forge ahead despite lockdown challenges

On the side, Mtsweni also runs Leading Ladies: Lending a helping hand, a charity organisation which collects and donates sanitary pads to schoolgirls and provides motivational talks on women empowerment across Gauteng.

However, Mtsweni said the lockdown had made it difficult to continue work in the organisation.

“Schools are closed, so we can’t go and donate at the moment. We also can’t host empowerment events due to regulations around gatherings of people.

Busisiwe Mtsweni
Busisiwe Mtsweni's passion to empower women is inspired by the strong women who played a part in her upbringing. Picture: Provided

“We have tried to go online, however data is expensive and not everyone has access to the internet,” she said.

Despite this, Mtsweni said her career had given her the opportunity of providing support in times of need.

“My career has become very important in this time of crisis. I love helping people and I play a part in healing the sick.

“But this doesn’t mean I’m not scared. We come across many challenges such as the shortage of protective equipment.

“I take public transport and work with ill people every day. I could get exposed to the virus.”

Lolo Ngubane (47), who is fortunate enough to work from her home in Meadowlands, Soweto, is a former nurse who is now a clinical case manager for a medical aid company.

Ngubane also runs an organisation called Imvulenhle Christian Foundation.

She echoed similar sentiments around the difficulties of running an organisation during the lockdown.

“I started the organisation in 2016, two years after the loss of my daughter. I interpreted her loss as having a greater appointment with God and decided to give back to cherish her memory.

“I started cooking for young people and the homeless. On an average visit to our areas which include Florida, Snake Park and Kliptown among others, we feed about 200 to 300 people.

“We also work with two churches and donate clothing to the needy.

“However, with the lockdown in place, it has been hard going out and feeding a large number of people,” she told City Press.

She added that as an essential worker, she had a chance to make people’s lives a little easier.

Lolo Ngubane
Lolo Ngubane turned grief into strength by helping those less fortunate. Picture: Provided

“My job is to ensure that clients on our medical aid are rendered the services which they pay for and to communicate on their behalf with healthcare facilities should the need arise.

“This is important, particularly because we’re dealing with a health crisis where there is an increased need of healthcare services,” she added.

At the time of writing, there were 2 605 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, 903 recoveries and 48 deaths.

Ngubane said her faith had kept her strong during this period.

“Now is the time to reflect and reconnect with ourselves and with God.

“Ours is to abide by the rules and remain faithful that this will eventually come to an end,” she said.

Mtshweni added that while “it’s easy to be negative, now is not the time.

“The outbreak of this virus has taught us that we never know what may happen tomorrow, which is why we must spend every day living our lives to the fullest.”


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