Mpophomeni – In 2000 the Ethembeni Care Centre was established by Dr Rouen Bruni who, along with about 10 home-based caregivers, provided medical assistance to people in the community, distributed food parcels and also comforted patients through prayer.
The centre was initially based at the Kwamalusi Omuhle Church, and in 2002, after a generous donation, the organisation moved into a house in Mpunzi Road in Mpophomeni. The new premises with its four bedrooms enabled the centre to take in and care for patients at the facility.
The Care Centre provides 24-hours service to the community and they have staff working day and night shifts.
A local medical doctor who volunteers his services, Dr Larsen, also visits the centre every Wednesday to check patients and refer them to hospitals.
“We have a hardworking wellness team who prepares patients that are well enough to go home, and also coach their families on how to treat them,” says Zwelihle Sokhela, manager at the centre.
In 2006, Sister Olive, who was managing the Care Centre at the time, identified the need for a family centre. She realised that many of the patients that pass away have children who needs caring and assistance when their parents die.
Therefore in 2007 they also started a Family Centre that cares for children by providing a meal after school, helping them with their school work and also doing home visits once a month where a mentor spends one-on-one time with a child. The Family Centre has provided life-skills training to 72 children, and also takes care of young children during the day while parents are at work.
High school children receive training in computer skills and musical instruments at the Family Centre, and there are skills training courses for adults that can help them sustain themselves. One of these courses teach people to create a home vegetable garden to ensure they always have something to eat, even when they are unemployed.
"There is a high rate of HIV infection in the community, and that is why we have started an awareness programme of voluntary counselling and testing," says Sokhela.
The centre receives support from local and international volunteers. "God sometimes creates a journey for you that changes your life," says Sokhela who believes that it is their calling is to be "the hands and feet of Christ".
Khanyisile Henry, an international volunteer co-ordinator said: “God shared his love with me, now I want to share it with other people.”
Lungile Ngubane is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Umgungundlovu district in KwaZulu-Natal.