Community Development Award Winner 2018
OUR UNSUNG COMMUNITY HEROES AND HEROINES
Lebuwe Emily Molefe
Lebuwe Emily Molefe, nee Thobejane, was born on the 16 April 1936 in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth where her aunt lived. Even though she grew up at Ga-Maja, her home and roots are at Ga-Mphahlele, also in Limpopo. Her father ChiloaneThobejane was a teacher, a preacher, community leader and school principal and mother Makgabo nee Molaba was a school teacher. The parents’ profession involved transfers to several schools resulting in moving and living around towns and villages of Ga-Maja, Maphulo now known as Solomondale, Ga-Chuene, Ga-Molepo and Bethesda in the then Northern Tranvaal.
Her rural upbringing involved carrying out tough household chores and participating in neighborhood activities and projects such asdrawing water, harvesting firewood, tilling the land, herding cattle, “letsema”, listening to and telling traditional and historic stories. Her influences come from the mountains of Leolo and Mogodumo, and the rivers of Ngopane, Lakabye, Moletsi and Legundwane of Limpopo.This molded herinto a community conscious person who would later become a professional nurse and community worker in Atteridgeville for most of her adult life.
Lebuwe attended Maja Primary School with well-known personalities like Mahlogonolo Maja Ledwaba and Zelpha Lady Maja. Participation in activities of the Wayfarers, Sunbeams, drills, concerts, expeditions, drills and camping prepared her for active leadership roles in her future community work.
She went to several high schools in Polokwane, Limpopo such as Khaiso, NgwanaMohube, Diocesan College now known as Setotolwane and Our Ladies, a Catholic institution where her school mates were MpisiMoloisaneMathibe, Leah ShangeTuta and Dina Mnisi.She was active in athletics as a sprinter, netball and refereeing, drama, debates, touch rugby and community outreach programmes.
Lebuwe whose earlier ambition was to become a social worker, taught for two years as a private teacher at Ga-Mphahlele after matriculation. She instead trained as a nurse at Jane Furse Hospital, Mamone in 1958 but abandoned her training after the death of her mother to take care of her father and siblings and to run the family business, Lefata Bakery at Ga-Mphahlele. She returned to nursing in 1960 training at Pretoria General Hospital and continued with midwifery in 1965 at King Edward Hospital, Durban. She was employed at Boitumelo Hospital, Kroonstad in Free Sate from 1967 to 1977. She later went to acquire a qualification in Nursing Administration at Pelonomi Hospital, Bloemfontein in 1973. During 1981-1983, she studied for Nursing Education and Community Nursing at the then MEDUNSA, Garankuwa.
She continued to rise in the profession and became a Senior Matron at Kalafong Hospital, Atteridgeville in 1977 and Principal Matron the following year. She furthered her studies by studying Orthopedic Nursing Science at Lebone College, Atteridgeville which would later propel her into another life of caring for those living with disabilities. By providence, while on night duty at Kalafong Hospital, she was challenged by having to nurse a local patient who had broken his neck in an accident. She continued to nurse him for three years as a quadriplegic in the spinal unit. In the process she also trained his wife and two sons in the care for a quadriplegic. The family was thus capacitated to care for beloved husband and father for fifteen years.
Her inexplicable call to establish Lebuwe Centre in 1978, named after her and which operates as AtteridgevilleSaulsville Association of People with Disabilities, came during the unrest of 1976 when many of our youth were maimed, paralysed and killed by the apartheid police and soldiers. An unknown woman of Jewish descent mysteriously came looking for her to deliver medical equipment, food and clothing but because she was astounded by this and did not know what to do with the stuff, she simply donated the stuff to the local Child Welfare Society.
In its beginnings, Lebuwe operated at the Methodist Church, Atteridgeville until 1983 when they were moved to the Atteridgeville Community Hall. They later relocated to their own site at Maunde/Khudu Streets, Atteridgeville which was acquired on renewable 30 year lease from the municipality.
Later in 1979, one MrsMcClean, a philanthropist and member of the then Cripples Care Association, came along with Revd John Tsebe of the Anglican Church and Sejamothopo Motau of Pretoria News to present a donation of a kombi from the newspaper grpup. This was meant to ferry the disabled between their homes and the centre.
Some of the pioneer social workers of the centre wereDukkie Christina Mothiba, Sara Manthata, Rosetta Simelane, LipalesaMahome, Moses Makgahlela, Sello Maloba, Rose Huma and Priscilla Rammonye. Those who served as committee members were Ntate M Moleele, MositwanaMolala, Julia Lerumo, Betty Ledwaba, E Habedi, Grace Mamabolo, Kathleen Maite and Jackson Bapela.
Lebuwe Centre obtained ownership of their land in 1985 and built the structure in 1993 funded by Independent Development Trust which was introduced to them by Mike Rantho. The centre was officially opened on 20 May 1995.
Lebuwe Centre caters for forty beneficiaries of all ages with physical disabilities from Atteridgeville including those from Lotus Gardens. Each receives a stipend and contract work, known as sheltered employment. The centre provides a protective environment and guides their clients to a feeling of self-worth and empowerment. Their programmes include skills training, beadwork, tailoring, sewing, wheelchair repairs, manufacturing household chemicals such as fabric softener, dish-washer, all purpose cleaner, gel, flower assembling from pearl plastics, leatherwork equipment donated by Super Shongwe Memorial and Charity Trust, counselling and emotional support.
Some of their activities are sports and interaction with other similar organizations and outings. They provide experiential/practical learning for finalist student nurses in rehabilitation and workshops for retired nurses. They are affiliated to Iphateleng (umbrella body), Gauteng North APD and Phelindaba Forum.
Lebuwe got married to Rusten Mahlorogane Molefe in 1964 and are blessed with four children.