21 April 2019


Bokone Bophirima pensioners celebrated in Provincial Grandparents' Day


Obakeng Maje


When elderly people converge in one place in numbers, what normally comes to mind is that they are either collecting old-age pension grants or attending a community event of some sorts.

This past weekend, however, saw pensioners of Bokone Bophirima meeting to concentrate on themselves. The Provincial Grandparents' Day celebration - held at Mmabana Taung last Saturday - was made possible by joint efforts of different stakeholders organized by businesswoman and philanthropist Kule Mahumapelo.

The celebration was a culmination of all the Grandparents' Day events Mahumapelo has held in different municipalities, teaching the elderly about their rights, helping the sick get the required medical attention, restoring the dignity of the many poor ones by providing them with decent homes and generally just creating a platform for them to be appreciated and showered with gifts.

During her address at last weekend's event, Mahumapelo said grandparents were like shady trees that are forever welcoming. Their wisdom and contribution to the societies must never be taken for granted, she said.

Grandparents' Day events are held under the theme: "Treasure the feeble hands of the wise" in an effort to instill a culture of respect and caring for the elderly. More than 3000 grandparents from all corners of the province formed part of the provincial celebrations.

Mahumapelo said: "We are celebrating the senior citizens of Bokone Bophirima. We have registered more 600 grandparents on our database. The aim is to address challenges encountered by our senior citizens because they are the most vulnerable group within our society".

Mahumapelo is the wife of Bokone Bophirima Premier Supra Mahumapelo, but runs various empowerment programmes under her own charity work. Grandparents' Day is one of her flagship programmes.

A day before the main Provincial Grandparents' Day celebration, Mahumapelo and her team of volunteers embarked on an oversight visit to villages around Taung, mainly to elderly people who for different health reasons were unable to make it to the celebration. "In eight out of the 10 households we visited, grandparents are living in abject poverty. We found two grandparents in Lokaleng village who are disabled and taken care of by a 15-year-old granddaughter," Mahumapelo told Semphete.

The situation was even more painful in Kokomeng village, where the team found a poverty stricken child-headed family. "The situation touched my heart so much because they did not even have food. The grandmother passed away two months ago and the teenager was forced to step in and take over. He is taking care of four siblings who are all mentally ill. "So we are engaging with Greater Taung Local Municipality and other stakeholders to see how this family can be assisted. We also want to encourage all stakeholders to come on board and address social issues that affect our people," she said.

Mahumapelo said since the inception of the Grandparents' Day initiative, many lives have been touched and changed positively. She added that the initiative has now begun receiving the necessary support from different stakeholders. "We are also assisting government through this programme because active citizenry contributes to what government can achieve. We are going to reflect on all events we have held and do follow-ups. We will also extend this programme into churches because faith-based leaders also play an essential role within our society," Mahumapelo said.

A representative of the Social Development Department's Greater Taung Service Point, Dineo Chuaka, said her department has got various sub-programmes that they use to engage grandparents. Chuaka said they also have a community-based care and support programme.

"We also have another programme called Pretty Things For Little Things. Our elderly people make toys and we donate them to Early Childhood Development Centres across Taung. "They participate in a sewing competition and they win prices at Shoprite supermarket. We also have service centres where our elderly persons take part in cooking competitions and provide food to other bed-ridden elderly persons," she said.

Chuaka said there was a big challenge of abandoned elderly persons in the Taung area. "Most of their children work far from home, leaving their parents behind. The grandparents end up staying alone or they are sometimes left with abusive children and their social grant money is taken away from them. However, we are seeing positive developments through support structures like Mahumapelo's programme," she said.

Elderly persons at the event were tested for various illnesses by Victoria Private Hospital and North West University's School of Nursing, which are partners in the programme.

Keitumetse Moeng from Health Wellness said: "We encourage our elderly persons to always follow procedure when dealing with health issues. Most of our elderly persons take care of their ill children and they continue to be infected with HIV and AIDS because children do not tell them that they are living with the virus. We also encourage them to exercise to keep fit," Moeng said.

Many grandparents praised Mahumapelo's programme and said it brought positive results into their lives.

Caption1: Philanthropist Kule Mahumapelo and her team of volunteers during the Provincial Grandparents' Day celebration in Taung. Caption2: Pensioners from different parts of Bokone Bophirima spent the day celebrating with each other, accompanied by different stakeholders.