Kindness and warmth are just two of Ouma Majola’s many intrinsic traits. Wearing her heart on her sleeve, Ouma has devoted the past 24 years to social and welfare work. While she may be a mother of one, Ouma is a nurturer, caregiver and counsellor to many. She started the Little Rose Centre in Kliptown, Soweto, in 1993 and it has since become a sanctuary to over 170 children.
Born in 1959, Christina Nomayeza Majola – more fondly known as Ouma Majola or Safiyya – comes from a doleful background. Sadly, she lost her parents when she was just 12 years old, and moved in with her elder sister and brother-in-law thereafter. She schooled at Hlakanipani in Dlamini, Johannesburg, and attended Lilydale High School where she completed Form 2 – today’s equivalent of Grade 9.
Her conversion to Islam was largely inspired by her only son, Nhlanhla. As a single mum, she feared he would succumb to the pressure of gangs, drugs, alcoholism and the roguishness elicited by an unfavourable socio-economic background. One day, he expressed that he wanted to accept Islam which she didn’t dispute. He attended an Islamic boarding school for five years to learn more about the religion. Ouma observed the kind of man her son was becoming, abound with respectability and discipline. It encouraged her to revert to Islam as well, and in doing so, she experienced a change within herself. She says that Islam taught her that as Muslims, we don’t judge others based on what they do or have.
Ouma notes that growing up as an orphan, there were many people who offered her welfare, however, due to her pride, she declined any assistance. She didn’t want to be helped, but rather be of help. Ouma dreamed of starting her own NPO to help underprivileged children who come from a background like her own. She didn’t let her lack of a formal education immobilise her goal of bringing change to the lives of others.
After moving to Kliptown, Ouma’s good intentions were given a tangible start with the help of a Suraya Hassan from Islamic Relief, who was involved in local community work; cooking for and feeding the needy. Suraya approached Ouma and fostered her interest in starting a vegetable garden to aid the destitute. Once the gardening project was underway, Suraya once again assisted Ouma with the next phase of her plan; opening up a daycare centre for vulnerable children in the informal settlement. They broached the matter with City of Johannesburg, which donated an old double-decker bus. The bus served as the founding point for Little Rose Centre where a playgroup was housed for four years, and at the time, Ouma was only able to offer kids meals once or twice a day. Although small, a roof over a child’s head was far better than none at all.
Islamic Relief sponsored a more stable structure for the children in the form of a container in 1995 and Woolworths followed suit with three more in 2004. They also gave her the opportunity to study Early Childhood Development, so she could have the theoretical credentials necessary to help identify the problems these children face.
Slowly but steadily, Ouma’s plans for her daycare facility were falling into place. With generous sponsorships from many different agencies, her vision was becoming a reality. Shamalindi, a Belgium-based relief organisation donated a more stable structure for the children, which was a requisite for Little Rose Centre to be liable for a government subsidy. Sage Foundation sponsored a library container and books which eliminated the long distances the kids walked to get to one. Fujitsu equipped the centre with a much-needed computer lab and a container to furnish it in. Ouma mentions Faizel Gattoo from Lenasia as someone who has also helped her organisation considerably. She also recalls Dr. Nana Hassan, who supported her project from the start and took care of the needs of the entire community, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Little Rose survives only on the donations that individuals and various organisations offer monthly, and is run by a group of dedicated volunteers. Some volunteers even cross borders, coming from overseas to stay and help out at the centre.
It devastates Ouma Majola to see kids from high-risk households being removed from their families by social workers. Determined to find a solution, Ouma offers her créche as a refuge to those children and provides them with stability, care, food and an education. She conducts home visits to ensure the children are being well taken care of and to identify any potential problems, organising medical help and social-worker intervention when needed. Ouma also completed courses in HIV counselling to aid the many families living in the area affected by the disease. Selfless and sympathetic, Ouma regards other peoples needs as her first priority above anything else.
Ouma welcomes children of all races, nationalities and religions, and never discriminates against anyone. Her heart and establishment is open to 170 children, with 110 (from ages 1-6) attending daycare and the remaining attend the after-school program. Of these, 18 orphaned children live full time at Little Rose Centre. Her efforts don’t just stop with the younger generation. Little Rose Centre also functions as a soup kitchen, providing one meal a day to the needy members of the community.
Ouma Majola applies an attitude of gratitude to every aspect of life and is thankful to God Almighty for all she has been able to achieve in her charity work. Initially, her most difficult challenge was not having enough resources as she couldn’t bear seeing a child go hungry. She praises all the volunteers and sponsors who helped her build Little Rose Centre from the ground up, saying she couldn’t have imagined doing it alone.
Her proudest achievement is based on the progress that Little Rose Centre has made. From the double-decker bus in which she first started, to seeing how her centre has developed and grown over the years into a place of hope and mercy, she says all this success is due to the power of God and the support of her loved ones. She advises others to always work together towards humanitarian goals.
She finds solitude in being able to offer a safe haven to children who come from homes without parental love or concern, providing her symbolically wide shoulders to lean on, along with endless affection and comfort. It gives her so much joy to see the kids she fosters excel at school. Having the ability to help them – even in the slightest – fills her with pride.
Ouma Majola says that Proudly Muslims of SA is a great way of showing the good work Muslims are doing. “It is something we should be proud of.”
She teaches children at the center to exercise tolerance and patience and to be independent, adding that everything she does, she does so for her Creator.
Ouma wants to be remembered as someone who always gave whatever little she had away and lived to benefit others. She wants people to be proud of her and follow in her philanthropic footsteps, continuing the good work at Little Rose Centre.
In a world overcome with weeds, Ouma Majola has planted a garden of hope for the children of Kliptown. She waters it with faith and love, and continues to grow it into a place of shelter and happiness. A place that these children can joyfully call ‘home’.
For more information, visit www.littlerosecentre.com