Old people’s home saved from collapse

Since voluntarily taking over the running of Entembeni Old People’s Home in Bulawayo’s Luveve high density suburb, Catherine Chiponda has transformed the institution from a near slum to a decent and comfortable care centre for the inmates.

Gogo MaTshabalala: life was unbearable.
Gogo MaTshabalala: life was unbearable.

Chiponda assumed her role as a voluntary matron of the institution in January 2010 upon her return from the UK where sheworked in various elderly persons’ homes as a senior manager.

“When I returned from the UK in 2010, my husband, who is a Rotarian anda board member of the home, briefed me about the numerous challenges facing Entembeni.

Having worked in old people’s homes in the UK, where standards are similar to hotels, I was touched by the living conditions at Entembeni and decided to assist,” Chiponda, a nurse, told The Zimbabwean.

When she took over, the institution’s infrastructure had virtually collapsed. Staff morale was at its lowest ebb following months without salaries.

“The situation was desperate. There was no food andblankets for the inmates. All the toilets were blocked and there was human waste smell all over. It was a depressing situation,” she recalled.

She immediately came up with a sound strategic plan that included aggressive fundraising because she was convinced that the home, run by a Board of Directors and 13 staff members, could not go far without money.

“We have received overwhelming support from the corporate world andthe Constituency Development Fund. We have managed to repair and buy equipment such as stoves and fridges. Now the inmates have decent and regular meals,” she said.

“Before my arrival, the hostels were in a sorry state. They were lice infested and some of the elderly inmates had developed sores due to unhygienic conditions. There was rubbish all over the place but now we have cleared the muck. Hostels are fumigated twice a week,’’ said Chiponda.

Joel Carval: we were facing starvation.
Joel Carval: we were facing starvation.

One of the inmates, Joe Carval, originally from Portugal, confirmed that living conditions at the home had markedly improved in the last two years.

“We were facing starvation at one time but following the arrival of Chiponda, our diet has improved. We are now able to watch television during our spare time. She is really a caring mother,” said Carval.

An inmate of Malawian origin, Kenneth Muhoni,has been living at the centre for two and a half years following his ejection from the family home in Ethumbane.

“If it was not this lady, I think we would not be here today. There was a time when life was unbearable and the next thing for most us was to go into the streets,” said a visually impaired female inmate, Gogo MaTshabalala, whose children are all in South Africa. Chiponda said her wish was to leave the institution with adequately trained staff that would include a substantive matron, before opening up her own private old people’s home.

“I will leave Entembeni when I am satisfied that proper policies and procedures are in place. I wish also to see a properly trained team taking over the running of the home,”she added.

She urged Zimbabweans to support the concept of old peoples’ homes, as much of the elderly population has no-one to care for them.

Aids has claimed many younger family members, leaving a significant population of the elderly to look after orphans. The few existing care homes have been negatively affected by a decade long economic crisis that left them with no money for food, daily operations, clothing and bills.

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