Masters candidate in Agrometeorology and research assistant in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) Ms Mendy Ndlovu celebrated her birthday this year by hosting a grandparents’ day at a local nursing home in Edendale, treating all 60 residents to care packages and a lunch.
Under the auspices of the Mendy-Lisa Foundation she has started, Ndlovu celebrated with the residents of the Emuseni Old Age Home. She says this was made possible by her employment as a research assistant by her supervisors, Dr Alistair Clulow and Dr Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi, which has enabled her to care for her own grandparents as well.
Concerned by high poverty and crime rates in Edendale, and the attendant poor environmental conditions, Ndlovu turned her attention to Emuseni, situated in the middle of this challenging setting. After her first visit as a volunteer with little to give, Ndlovu said the conditions broke her heart, particularly the loneliness of the residents.
‘I knew I had to do something, but when I tried to organise the first grandparents’ day I was broke and was discouraged by people around me,’ said Ndlovu. ‘Not many people care about old people and that saddens me, because I believe that their last days on earth should be really peaceful and stress-free.’
Ndlovu, who was raised by her grandparents and great-grandparents in uMvoti and Mkhambathini, said she grew up with a protective love and concern for older people. She sees herself as a product of her grandparents, and is distressed by societal neglect of the elderly.
Noticing a need for basic toiletries at Emuseni, which is close to where Ndlovu grew up, she established the needs of residents and put together “blessing bags” containing toiletries, as well as socks and scarves to get the residents through winter.
The gifts were met with tears of gratitude. Ndlovu and other volunteers who supported her initiative also served lunch, dessert and drinks, and she said they left the home with a new perspective on life.
‘The old folks there are lonely and always cheer up when there are friendly faces around,’ said Ndlovu, who encouraged younger people to listen to the older generation. ‘They are always waiting to share their life stories with those willing to listen, and it’s amazing.’
Ndlovu aims to make this an annual event and says she believes that in the same way as youth, mothers and fathers are celebrated with dedicated days on the calendar, the elderly should also be granted a “grandparents” day’.
Ndlovu studied Geography for her undergraduate degree and completed her Honours degree in Food Security. Her areas of interest include drought, community resilience and adaptation to climate change, and she aims to balance a career in research with her humanitarian interests.
‘I am aiming for a career that will allow me to help the poor adapt to climate change through strengthening their food (production) systems while protecting the environment.’
Words: Christine Cuénod