|The Winnie Mabaso Orphanage is set for a revamp, thanks to a British founder and chairperson Lisa Ashton|
Change is in the air for the Winnie Mabaso Orphanage. Its patron and founder has returned from the UK and is planning repairs and renovations.
AN orphanage in an impoverished township housing children infected with or affected by HIV/Aids will soon offer a more comfortable home for its charges, as it undergoes repairs and renovations.
Found at 1865 Phillip Street in Finetown, in the south of Johannesburg, the Winnie Mabaso Orphanage has, over the past few years, become a safe haven for those in need. It provides food and shelter for the children and gives them the opportunity to go to school.
Renovations and repairs have been scheduled following the arrival of the orphanage’s founder and chairperson, Lisa Ashton, from the United Kingdom on 13 April. At present, the orphanage consists of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a lounge and a foyer.
Ashton is a producer and director for the BBC, the British broadcaster. She is based in Manchester, where she continually raises funds and collects donations in the form of clothing – among other items – which she brings to the children in Johannesburg. She is a frequent visitor to the orphanage, where she spends time with the children and helps with maintenance and improvements.
This year, she returned with a team of builders. During her stay, she is also scheduled to visit other local projects to get ideas for a planned vocational training school. She will document her visit with short films and video diaries of some of the children to highlight the cause.
Ashton brought along gifts for the children, as well as clothing, and she be taking them to the Lion Park in Randburg on 22 April. For many of the children at the orphanage, this will not be their first field trip.
In July 2010, they were taken to Rand Airport with the City’s portfolio head of transport, Rehana Moosajee, for a guided tour of Lebombo, the Boeing 747 at the South African Aviation Museum.
On Ashton’s last visit to the orphanage, she and her team and a few volunteers pitched in to repaint and fix up the preschool on the orphanage’s grounds.
Ashton first came to Joburg about seven years ago to compile a BBC documentary about people making a difference in their communities. Mabaso was among the people she interviewed.
According to Ashton, Mabaso was “an incredible, inspirational and kind-hearted woman who was caring for the orphans in her township of Finetown”.
“During her interview, Winnie told me of a myth that had begun circulating … that if a man had HIV/Aids and slept with a virgin, he would be cured. As a result, many of the children were being raped by men who were desperately trying to find a cure for themselves,” Ashton recalled.
Mabaso stepped up to the plate and began cooking and caring for the children in the community. She shared with the Brit her dream of one day opening a safe haven for the orphans of Finetown.
Ashton returned to the UK and began raising funds to buy a home so Mabaso’s dream could be fulfilled.
“In 2006, we [Ashton, her family and friends] were able to make that dream come true and it was with happy hearts and great delight that we watched as 30 children moved in,” she said about the humble beginnings of the orphanage.
Mabaso passed away shortly after the home was started and Ashton became concerned about what would happen to it and the children.
She returned to South Africa for the funeral and recalled a poignant moment during the service when the children stood hand-in-hand around the coffin before Mabaso was buried. It was at that moment that she found herself making a promise to Mabaso and the children that her dream would not die with her.
Today, the orphanage is still home to the children, who are cared for by Mabaso’s sister, Mama Linda, and her son, Sipho Mabaso, as well as by Miriam Louw.
Speaking during her previous visit, Ashton said that what had started off as an ordinary orphanage, had evolved into an important local project. Over the past few years she has raised a considerable amount of money and has managed to keep the place running, returning frequently to improve conditions for those living there.
The orphanage’s feeding station now feeds some 350 vulnerable children from the township each day. It has a preschool for about 30 local children and a team of care workers who go into the local community to care for the sick and needy.
“Winnie’s love lives on in Finetown and I feel very blessed to be a part of keeping her dream alive,” Ashton said.
A British medical team is expected later in the year to check the children’s health; some of them are HIV-positive.
Trustees of the orphanage are Ashton and her husband, Stephen Ashton; Jacqueline Hughes; and Charlotte Millar. To make a donation or for more information, visit the Winnie Mabaso Foundation website.