A Summer Greens woman says her difficult upbringing was the reason she decided to dedicate her life to helping those in need.
Lungisa Haai, 49, lives in Summer Greens with her three children. She runs a non-profit that helps feed nearly 500 people a day in various communities around Cape Town. But growing up as the second eldest of seven siblings, she never thought she could make this kind of impact in people’s lives.
She was born in Gugulethu, but at the age of 8, she went to live in Mdantsane, in the Eastern Cape. Her father had died around that time and it then became difficult for her mom to take care of all the children by herself.
Ms Haai’s grandparents then helped to raise her and her siblings who were dependent on the elderly couple’s pensions.
“It was very difficult growing up. Sometimes we would go to school without food. But even though we were going through that, what gave us comfort is that we had each other. We became so close together as siblings. Our mother and grandmother though always tried to instil in us the importance of going to school and bettering the situations we come from,” she said.
While doing matric, Ms Haai fell pregnant. She had to drop out of school, move back to Cape Town and started doing odd jobs to take care of her new born baby.
“I felt like I had disappointed my mother, grandparents and siblings. I worked and was even able to finish my matric while doing that. I did a BCom accounting course at UWC, before I started working at Transnet,” she said.
It was on site visits during her 15 years at Transnet that she noticed how people were struggling in many communities. And people would also come looking for work at her office, many of them hungry. She started by making soup in her home, getting bread from retailers who would help, and then gave out the food to the needy outside her workplace.
She also joined a feeding scheme in Marikana informal settlement in Philippi.
“Even when things started looking good for me – because I had my own house, a family, I was working, had a car – I never took that for granted and never forgot where I came from. Helping others became my mission in life,” she said.
In 2017, after her B&B business went bust, she started a programme in Joe Slovo where she and other women would spend time with the elderly, helping them with knitting, crocheting and exercising. That turned into a feeding scheme as well, as time went by.
Ms Haai registered the Siphekela Isizwe Empowerment and Feeding Scheme in 2018.
They now have 10 volunteers who help feed communities in Joe Slovo, Phoenix, Summer Greens, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.
“I’m grateful for the partnerships we’ve made along the way. The Kolisi Foundation, Milnerton Community Action Network, View Church and others. It’s difficult trying to get to all these communities on a daily basis, but we are thankful we can help those in need,” she said.
Ward 4 councillor Wandisile Ngeyi said he was very impressed with the work Ms Haai and her team of volunteers were doing.
“As ward councillors, we were asked to identify NGOs that were doing a great job in local communities and Siphekela Isizwe was one of those organisations. And with the lockdown regulations in place, it hindered some projects that we as the City wanted to do. So the surplus money that would have gone to those projects, was then distributed to these NGOs so that they can carry on with their good work. In Ward 4, we have a number of NGOs and it’s always touching to see regular citizens helping out others,” he said.