Community a priority for Nosiseko

Nosiseko Siswana

It seems Nosiseko Siswana is everywhere you look these days.

Thula Thula Hout Bay founding member, early childhood development (ECD) proponent and now businesswoman with the Yebo Fresh online shopping brand (“Nourishment rises from the ashes”, Sentinel, November 30), the enterprising 30-year-old is pouring her heart and soul into long-term programmes that will benefit the local community for years to come.

Much of her benevolent spirit can be attributed to her father, Vincent Sodladla, a long-term executive member of the Hout Bay Community Policing Forum, who instilled in her the desire to assist those around her.

“Whenever there was a fire in IY, my dad would be there helping, so I would help too,” she fondly recalled this week.

In 2010, she joined the Rainbow Dreams Trust, which provided after-school care programmes and worked with orphaned children and those battling cancer. Thereafter, she worked on a contract basis for the City of Cape Town in its sports and recreation department, allowing her to pursue her passion for children’s programmes.

While she enjoyed this period of her life, she also recognised that helping those in need in Hout Bay would always remain a primary focus. And no greater need arose than when fires tore through the most impoverished parts of the village.

“In about 2015/16, I was volunteering after a fire. That’s where I met Joanne (Chemaly), who was also volunteering at the time. My dad introduced us. What Joanne and I discussed was that every time there was a fire, there were too many distribution centres.

“What we had noticed was that immediately after the fire, people didn’t have the basics like toiletries, groceries and blankets. The City usually provided aid about three days after a fire, so we identified that there was a three-day gap where fire victims needed these essentials. That’s really how Thula Thula started.”

The exponential growth of the non-profit, unsurprisingly, came after the March 11 fire last year, when more than 10 000 people were left homeless. “I don’t know what we would have done
without so many people offering their help. When we were collecting on the sports fields and saw all the items that were coming in, it was difficult to believe that only three people had organised it.”

The efforts also marked a turning point for Ms Siswana, both personally and professionally. Not only did the Thula Thula template for fire victim registration spark the idea for Yebo Fresh, for whom she is products manager, but through the volunteer programme she was introduced to Camille Paterson, the programme manager for the Afri-CAN Children’s Charity.

Afri-CAN’s focus falls on early childhood development centres which prepare vulnerable children for school, and Ms Siswana joined the team in June last year.

“There are 11 ECD centres we work with in Hout Bay. There was only one in Hangberg when I started. My mandate was to recruit more for the Afri-CAN programme,” she said.

“The programme has six pillars: nutrition, teacher training, structural upgrades, water and sanitation, early childhood education, and entrepreneurship.
In introducing principals to the programme, we started with honey and oats breakfasts for the kids, which I made myself. Then the ECD centres started preparing the breakfasts themselves, although we still provided the ingredients. Our efforts were soon welcomed by the principals.”

Ultimately, the aim is to register the ECD centres with the Department of Social Development, which can be a challenge as many
require significant structural upgrades.

“An advantage I have is that I have worked a lot with fire, so I know what is required to get the buildings compliant in terms of fire safety requirements. We are hoping to get some of our ECD centres registered with the government next year, and the rest the following year.”

With so much on her plate, the Sentinel asked Ms Siswana how she managed to juggle her time.

“For me, it’s all about the people and helping people. If it’s benefiting the community, it doesn’t feel like you are working at all,” she said.