Local philanthropist Deborah Stellenberg has challenged women in the light of national Women’s Month to reach out to the homeless and have compassion.
“In as much as we are celebrating our positions in the corporate world, let us be mothers and look out for one another’s children. We need to be that village that everyone used to talk about, that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. We need to reach out and address issues of homeless children.”
In celebration of Women’s Month The Rep will feature phenomenal women who significantly contribute to local communities.
Stellenberg started her movement in 2017 having thought about it for a full year before its inception. The former principal, now widow and mother of three, with two granddaughters, said her non-profit organisation Deborah Arise was birthed out of a prayer meeting.
The organisation has a wide range of focus areas where she works with a group of 16 dedicated women who were prepared to make someone’s life easier and more comfortable.
“As mothers we help children who are struggling with addiction and homeless children. We help the parents of those who are battling addiction. Being one of the parents who is struggling with a child with addiction issues, I can relate to the pain of the women and the mothers. We get clothes, food parcels from the community which we distribute. We also give out sanitary towels to schools.”
Last year during lockdown when homeless people were placed in shelters, the movement sourced clothes, supplied meals and toiletries to the needy. A fatal fire at Rhawutini informal settlement last year, which left many residents homeless, was assisted by the organisation. “We were in a great position to help out because the community was generous and understood the time we were in. We even had a surplus of blankets. The community of Komani is a phenomenal place to live, despite all the challenges.”
Their biggest challenge was to get a facility to carry out their services she said. Discussing some of her future plans, Stellenberg mentioned her primary focus was to get a rehabilitation facility in Komani. “Many people have volunteered their services. Doctors and pharmacists are willing to assist if this comes together. I am eyeing the Gali Tembani Youth Care Centre because it was built for that purpose and would be an ideal place. We are also looking at having a skills development centre.”
She said the centre would play a crucial role in developing some of the groups she works with which includes sex workers.
“They are frowned upon and given many labels, but my thought is that nobody wakes up one morning and decides it is a good day to become a sex worker. Something has gone horribly wrong somewhere and my idea is to try and find out why it all happened, and to try to fix that. There is no such things as a hopeless case. We are all part of this global family and if we do not look after each other it means that my grandchildren will sit with the same problem.”
The team has established a school in Cacadu which is still in its infant stages.
“A woman is a resilient, strong person who can bring comfort into any situation. It is someone who people depend upon and sometimes underestimate. A woman is someone who is more than capable of occupying spaces. That instinct that God has given us as women – the nurturing aspect – I feel has to come back because we have grown so cold in many ways. I see how we as mothers walk past someone who is suffering, struggling and we do not even bat an eyelid. It saddens me because that is not who we are. I would like to see a village of women rising up together,” she said.