CLAD in a simple white sari with blue stripes, similar to that worn by the late Mother Theresa, Sister Vikashini bends down to examine a sick woman lying in a bed.

Missionaries of Charity in Yeoville care for the lonely, the sick, the dying, the wretched and the destituteMissionaries of Charity in Yeoville care for the lonely, the sick, the dying, the wretched and the destitute
The woman struggles to sit up to speak with Sister Vikashini, but eventually gives up and lies back.

“You are going to be fine, Stephanie, but you must eat your food slowly to keep it down,” Sister Vikashini reassures her gently, after learning from a volunteer that the patient had failed to eat her breakfast earlier that morning.

Sister Vikashini makes her way into another room where three elderly women sit on their beds trying to capture the mid-morning sunlight filtering through the window.

She exchanges greetings and briefly engages them in a cheerful banter.

A bell suddenly rings out in the centre to remind people of the mid-morning prayer session.

This is the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa Home, a winner at the Halala Joburg award ceremony that took place on 12 May at Turbine Hall in Newtown.

Honouring those who help others
In recognition for its charity works in the city, the home won the “Caring Joburg” category as well as an amount of R10 000 sponsored by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA).

The home depends on divine providence and donations for its continued survivalThe home depends on divine providence and donations for its continued survival
“When we first heard about the Halala Awards, we were not sure what it was all about,” said Sister Vikashini .“Even now we’re still wondering who recommended us. It will be nice to know what touched them about us.”

The Halala Awards programme was launched in 2008 by the JDA to recognise people, projects and places that try to improve Johannesburg residents’ quality of life.

The “Caring Joburg” category honours selfless and community-minded individuals, volunteer groups and organisations that deliver support services for the benefit of inner city residents.

Other categories in this year’s programme include “Living Joburg”; “Relaxing and Playing Joburg”; “Sustaining Joburg”; “Working and buying Joburg”; “Conserving Joburg”; and “Believing in Joburg”.

Award-winning work
Situated in Yeoville, the home was established 13 years ago and is managed by nine Roman Catholic sisters.

The lonely, the sick, the dying, the wretched and the destitute have passed through its doors in search of help.

People are not hungry for food but are starving for compassion and love, says Sister VikashiniPeople are not hungry for food but are starving for compassion and love, says Sister Vikashini
“I have had a beautiful experience working here and have seen the hand of God at work in many lives,” said Sister Vikashini. “My most memorable moment was when an old woman who could not remember where she lived was reunited with her family, after she’d been brought here by the police for safety.”

The sisters’ day often begins as early as 4.30am when they wake up to wash their own clothes, prepare their own breakfast and pray, before facing the world.

After morning prayers they help other staff members and volunteers to clean up the home, cook meals and administer medication to sick patients.

Later in the day, the sisters visit poor families in the area to see if they need material or spiritual assistance.

“People are not hungry for food but are starving for compassion and love. There are many lonely families out there,” said Sister Vikashini “They don’t want money, but a smile or a simple hello can change their day.”

The Mother Theresa Home depends on divine providence and donations from supporters for its continued survival.

Grateful beneficiaries
Tapuwa Mapurura, a Mother Theresa patient recovering from tuberculosis, spoke highly of the sisters.

“Indeed they are true heroes among few others,” said Mapurura. “We get everything we need and don’t have to pay a cent for it. The care I receive here is better than what I get at home,” he added.

Mapurura, who fled the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe a few years ago, fell ill in 2009 while living with friends in Randburg.

He was forced to quit his job due to his ailing health, and just when he had lost all hope of recovery, a social worker at the local hospital, where he regularly collected his medication, referred him to the Mother Theresa home.

“I feel that they truly deserve the award. They have helped many underprivileged people and don’t expect any payment.”

He added that the sisters’ actions of sincere benevolence have inspired many in the home to follow their example.

Elizabeth Masienyane came to stay at Mother Theresa with her sick mother in 1997, aged 12. She had only good words to say about the mission.

“I am grateful to the sisters for taking care of me when I lost my mother. I don’t know what I would have done back then,” Masienyane said.

After her mother died, she continued to stay at the home and was able to attend school, thanks to the sisters. Now married with four children, she regularly comes in to help with chores.

Twenty-five-year-year-old Constance Letuka was near death from HIV/Aids-related complications when she was brought to the home.

“The sisters are very nice to me – without their help I would have been dead by now,” she said.

Letuka used to live in Soweto’s Zampilo informal settlement with her husband and three children. Her life took a turn for the worse when she discovered that she was HIV-positive, but more heartache was in store when her husband abandoned the family.

“There was no one to look after us, until one of the sisters, who regularly visited families in the settlement, came to my rescue,” she said.

The sisters nursed Letuka back to health, and despite her illness she still hopes to get an identity document and quickly find employment, so that she can better look after her children.

The Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa Home is situated at number 76 St Georges Street in Yeoville. For further information, contact Sister Vikashini at 011 648 6315.

Story: City of Johannesburg