One woman, 5 000 children, and a home giving young lives a future

 
 
 

When Rosalia Mashale moved to Khayelitsha, she woke each morning to the sounds of children rummaging through rubbish for food. Unable to stand by, Mashale brought the hungry into her home, and ended up forming a free daycare centre. That was 29 years ago. It became known as Baphumelele, an isiXhosa word meaning ‘we have succeeded’. Since then Mashale, who goes by ‘Mama Rosie’, has cared for over 5 000 children.

10 years into running the centre, Mashale made plans to retire. But then, a young boy was abandoned on her doorstep. He was about two years old, had no clothes, and didn’t know his own name. Mashale never turns a child away, and knew that more had to be done. So she formed a permanent children’s home for orphaned and abandoned kids, and Baphumelele expanded. It now occupies a whole block in Khayelitsha, providing care to children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, have HIV themselves, or have been abused and neglected. Her initiative provides food and assistance to child-headed households, runs programmes to help young adults become independent, and offers health and hospice care. Mashale also started Rosie’s Bakery, where older kids bake bread for the rest of the children, and sell to the community to raise money.

As a former primary school teacher, Mashale has been serving children her whole life. She let go of her own plans when she saw the need that existed in Khayelitsha. “We are here on earth to serve others who need our help,” Mashale says. She has dedicated her time, resources, and home to those most vulnerable in society, all with the warmest of smiles. In 2017, Mashale was recognised by CNN as one of its Top 10 Heroes, an acknowledgment that came at a time when Baphumelele was in desperate need of financial help. Regardless of her circumstances, Mashale will never give up on a child in need. She plans on backing her kids for as long as possible. “I can’t wait to attend their graduation,” Mashale says. “I’m going to wear a bright dress and a big hat, so that people can see that I’m still there supporting them.”