Siphiwe M : from Benoni Daycare Centre
(Name changed to protect her identity)
THIS IS HER STORY
*Siphiwe Mahlangu was born at the Oliver Tambo Memorial hospital in Boksburg some 27 years ago into a nuclear family of two older sisters and an older brother.
Siphiwe‘s early years of development were uneventful but at the age of 2 years her life was brutally disrupted. Firstly the death of her father due to a medical condition and in the following year, the death of her mother, which to her understanding involved witchcraft. Siphiwe was cared for by an angel of mercy who took her into her home.
This all ended when her uncle organised for her to live in the Eastern Cape with her biological older sister, Fikile. Fikile had a young daughter, Sophie, the same age as Siphiwe. This young daughter was the apple of her mother’s eye and Siphiwe for reason beyond understanding became the antithesis of this. The sister relationship became extremely difficult with Siphiwe suddenly becoming the adversary. In recalling the memory of her story about this time in her life she broke down into tears and through the pain she describes how her sister would force her to do all the cooking and cleaning in the house. Over and above that she was forced to serve her counterpart, Sophie, in a very inhumane and soul destroying way. Many times she was late for school because of the work load she was compelled to complete. The consequence was that she was often in trouble with the school authorities. Her sister received these complaints and would respond by physically abusing Siphiwe. She describes, through tears, being whipped with lashings from the seat belt of an old car. As the memories continued to be rebirthed in her mind the great trauma she experienced re-emerged now in the telling of her story.
When asked who did she turn to in this treacherous time of her life? She responded there was really no one! The only people who knew of her predicament were some elderly men who visited a nearby shebeen. She related her sad tale to them and they could see how unhappy she was and told her in a strange but comforting way that she must be grateful, that she is learning skills that one day will benefit her. Her counterpart, Sophie, on the other hand will have no such skills. These words made no sense to her then and the compassion she longed for sadly left her feeling just as deprived and isolated.
This cruel existence continued till one day she was encouraged by her secret boyfriend to go with him to Gauteng and to start a new life there. With great courage she did this, and not long after that Siphiwe found herself pregnant. Her son, Sizwe, was born in 2007 and he means the world to her. She is a very proud Mom.
Her partner was HIV positive and encouraged Siphiwe to go to the clinic for testing.
The result confirmed that Siphiwe was also HIV positive. Siphiwe started her medication and from the start she was compliant. The local clinic was supportive.
Communication with her father’s family, despite many attempts, proved fruitless. The communication with her sister also went from negligible to non-existent so she stopped trying. Then one day through some distant relations she heard her sister had died from an impaired kidney function. Siphiwe, attended her funeral in East London, where she met up with other family members but felt alienated and realised she belonged in Gauteng in her ‘kaya’ in Barcelona.
Her son Sizwe is now 7 yrs old and attending school. Sometimes she will earn money doing piece work and Siphiwe is grateful as the additional income supplements her social grant. Her partner is very supportive and she is deeply grateful for that. She has a very mature and responsible attitude to her medication realising her compliance makes the difference of life and death.
She attends the Zionist church and gains support from the other women members.
During one visit to the clinic in 2011 the Sister in Daveyton suggested that Siphiwe join a group of people who attend the daycare at Hospice East Rand. She now joins others, generally those with HIV or cancer, at Hospice.
At the Hospice East Rand Daycare she felt the welcoming atmosphere from volunteers and found this “oasis” of love and care not only from the carer's at the day care but from her fellow counterparts and together they contribute to a place of belonging that is both uplifting and sustaining. Truly, Wednesday Daycare is a place of belonging.
Siphiwe is a tremendous example of “overcoming” her suffering that has matured her and set her aside from her peers and counterparts. She deserves her happiness - she has earned it!
The sages would say that wisdom comes with age but the hard lessons of life learnt through suffering in tandem with faith, perseverance, courage and determination gift us with wisdom way beyond our years. Such is the case with this very special young lady!
Phambili Mbokodo Siphiwe!
St Francis Senior College Choir entertaining Benoni Daycare patients