South Africa

MAVERICK CITIZEN: Supa Dimama Senior Citizens Centre: Love and care for the elderly

Josephine Mpofu is the founder of the Supa Di Mama Senior Citizen Centre in Ivory Park, Thembisa. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

Shoprite has been working with more than 300 community projects in an endeavour to mitigate hunger through food gardens and to provide early childhood development services to poor communities. Maverick Citizen interviewed five of the women leading these community projects and will run their stories over the next week.

If you happen to be driving past the Ivory Park taxi rank next to the Kopanong shopping centre on a Wednesday, you are likely to spot the elderly of Supa Dimama holding a market day, selling the products from their vegetable garden to their community.

Josephine Mpofu is the founder of the Supa Dimama Senior Citizens Centre based in the densely populated township of Ivory Park, Midrand.

Mpofu says she had a difficult upbringing. Her mother remarried when she was a teenager and she moved with her mother and stepfather to their new marital home, where she says she felt neglected and like “an orphan”. She then moved in with her grandmother, who she says was everything to her.

This made her appreciate grandparents and the importance of looking after them. Mpofu says the elderly need to be venerated for the sacrifices they make for their children as well as being vestiges of memory and history for younger generations.

Mpofu left school in Grade 9 because there was not enough money for her to finish her education. She got married when she was 17 and was widowed at 25 when her husband died after a short illness, leaving her to look after their two children alone.

Home-grown vegetables are tended by volunteers at the Supa Di Mama Senior Citizen Centre. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

She later met an elderly woman who had come all the way from KwaZulu-Natal in search of her son. She took the woman in and managed to contact a family member who took her back to KZN, where she died two weeks later. 

It was at this point that she realised her calling was to take care of elderly people and she started by taking care of 100 grannies at her church, giving them “love and care”.

Mpofu says there is a lot of unemployment in Ivory Park and often the children and grandchildren of the elderly take their pension money, leaving them without money to even buy “tea and bread to eat”.

Mpofu started the Supa Dimama Senior Citizens Centre in 2009, in what was then dilapidated municipal property inhabited by nyaope addicts and hawkers.

She initially managed to raise just R5,000 to renovate the buildings after attempts to secure funding from the Department of Social Development were unsuccessful.

Members of the Supa Di Mama Senior Citizen Centre take part in an exercise routine. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

She remembered how her grandmother would plant vegetables for the family to have food and decided to do the same so she could feed the senior citizens at the centre.

In 2017 she partnered with Shoprite through an initiative called Food and Trees for Africa, where she and her volunteer staff were taken through a series of workshops teaching them how to plant and harvest in a sustainable way.

They also learnt how to make their own compost, maintain the safety of their plants with natural pesticides, and how to market their produce. They now grow enough food for the senior citizens at the centre as well as to sell to the hawkers in the community.

At Supa Dimama the community’s senior citizens receive breakfast and lunch, and take part in daily activities including exercising, knitting classes, gardening, sewing, singing and dancing. They receive their medication at the centre.

Mpofu says she is determined to reach full sustainability and is trying to get funding for a chicken coop, which will provide them with fresh eggs and meat for consumption and sale. She also wants to grow flowers to sell.

“Working with the elderly is a blessing and a calling,” says Mpofu. DM/MC

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