BULAWAYO – While for some people the principle of volunteering had to be first taught and encouraged, this was not the case with a Bulawayo woman, Mariyeti Mpala.
Mpala (nee Sithole) was unquestionably born a volunteer.
When as young as 18 (1977), Mpala started doing some voluntary work at Jairos Jiri, helping disabled people, with the washing of plates and other household chores.
“I did this until I became a mother,” said Mpala.
“I then became a Jairos Jiri member at the age of 30 and began paying subscriptions.”
After that, Mpala started to look around for other organisations which required help.
It was then that she joined up with a Mr. Strydom, who was helping destitute people at the railway station, whom she gave a hand.
“We would together serve to them (destitute people) bread and soup,” she explained.
“I then said to him, ‘black people get satisfaction from sadza’, but Strydom said to me,’ who then would cook that sadza, and where would relish come from.’ I then said even beans would do.”
After being given all the ingredients, Mpala would cook from her house and Mr. Strydom would come and pick her up in his car and travel to the railway station to serve the people.
She said her children would also assist her.
“Later on, Mr. Strydom then built a home named ‘Home of Peace’ in Thorngrove,” said Mpala, who resides in Tshabalala Extension.
“I then did not see the need for me to be travelling from Tshabalala to Thorngrove rather than doing something for my community.”
Mpala then looked at the elderly people and realised that they did not have anybody looking after them and then resolved to first go and see Help Age, an organisation which was also helping the elderly, to avoid a scenario whereby she would appear like she wanted to compete with them.
It was then that her organisation, Trace the Fortunes of the Elderly, was formed.
Mpala, with the assistance from well-wishers is taking care of over 400 elderly persons from Tshabalala and Sizinda townships.
She organises parties for them on special days such as Christmas, Fathers’ Day, Mothers’ Day and many others.
Mpala, who started voluntary work in 1970, said she got inspiration from her parents who were always welcoming to visitors.
“People, who were coming from rural areas to do business in town, would stay at our house,” she elaborated.
“Our home was always full of people, but then I did not like it because I thought they would finish our food until I got to understand that they would not finish anything and that there were blessings in giving. I have always loved the elderly from my childhood.”
Born on 1 October 1959, at Njube Clinic in Bulawayo, Mpala went to Helemu Primary School, Sizane and Mpumelelo.
She later did home nursing at what was then called Red Cross, did secretarial studies at the Bulawayo Polytechnic and briefly worked in Hwange.
Mpala, who is married to John, has also worked for Truworths and Haddon and Sly for 26 years.
The hardworking lady did Business Management, Agriculture, Crop Science, Leadership and a number of other courses.
She said her husband, who has worked at the National Railways of Zimbabwe, and is now a pensioner was highly supportive of her community work.