Caring for others wasn’t a choice for Lydia Hlophe. Married two years after finishing school, she picked up a job as a domestic worker. In the process of building her life, Hlophe’s innate compassion helped her to empathise with those around her who were struggling to get off the ground. As a small gesture of kindness she began offering hot meals to those with nothing, starting a soup kitchen from home. Before she knew it, she had gone from feeding 40 mouths to sustaining 257 people.
Her own living situation was simple, but Hlophe felt compelled to help the people who had turned to her. The KwaNyuswa township in KwaZulu-Natal where she lives is filled with children orphaned by HIV, either abandoned or living with grandparents who are barely getting by on meagre pensions. Hunger rattles around here, creating hollow echoes between shacks. Resolute on rallying help, she founded the Yenzanathi NGO in 2007. With Hlophe as its catalyst the community pulled together, and the programme grew.
The last decade has seen the humble soup kitchen develop a number of offshoots, including a vegetable garden, chicken coop and internet café that provides a vital portal to educational resources for the community’s children. Yenzanathi has also empowered the people of KwaNyuswa to be self-sustaining. Eggs and vegetables are sold to raise funds or put towards meals, and the garden serves as a training ground for the development of subsistence farmers. Hlophe has made a lasting difference to the lives of hundreds of people by responding to their need with what she has. There’s no right time to begin helping others – just a right attitude to your situation.
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