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Lydia Hlophe: Helping hundreds of people in the Valley of a Thousand Hills

Lydia Hlophe: Helping hundreds of people in the Valley of a Thousand Hills
Lydia Hlophe, founder of Yenzanathi Community Project in Kwanyuswa, KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo: Highway Mail)

Supermarket chain Shoprite has been working with more than 300 community projects to alleviate hunger through food gardens and to provide early childhood development services to poor communities. Maverick Citizen interviewed five of the women leading these projects and is featuring their stories over the week.

Lydia Hlophe is the spirited 54-year-old founder of Yenzanathi community upliftment project in a community called Kwanyuswa in what is popularly known as KwaZulu-Natal’s “Valley of a Thousand Hills” 

Speaking to her over the phone, her energy is infectious as she gets straight to telling me about her initiative. Originally from KwaMashu outside Durban, she moved to Kwanyuswa in 1993 when she married.

Hlophe says she noticed that “gogos” in the community were being left to look after their grandchildren as their own children were dying of HIV/Aids, placing a huge strain on their resources and health as they were dependent on pension grants to survive. 

Hlophe, then a domestic worker, started the Yenzanathi community upliftment project in 2007. She started a soup kitchen and began providing food to 10 homes twice a week.

Volunteers tend to the food garden at Yenzanathi community upliftment project. (Photo: Shoprite)

In 2007, KwaZulu-Natal was one of South Africa’s HIV/Aids hotspots. The disease took a deadly toll on young adults, leaving many children orphaned or left in the care of grandparents.

Although the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) won its 2003 Constitutional Court battle for access to antiretrovirals, roll-out was slow and it would be a few years before people could get the necessary drugs.

After hearing about the Yenzanathi upliftment project in 2016, Shoprite got involved by despatching their mobile kitchen to help Hlophe in her initiative to make sure that those in need did not go hungry. 

Hlophe now supports 65 households – many with elderly, orphaned or vulnerable family members. This translates to about 255 people.

Lydia Hlophe with volunteers at the Yenzanathi community upliftment project. (Photo supplied)

She has managed to secure half a hectare of land for a food garden where she and beneficiaries of the project plant and harvest a variety of vegetables for themselves, as well as selling the surplus. 

Food and Trees for Africa assisted with training on how to go about planting and taking care of the food gardens in a sustainable way. The Yenzanathi upliftment project also has a crèche on site and an internet café for the community’s use.

Hlophe says that twice a year they sell their produce at the Checkers market day, which is well supported. She says her greatest wish is to see everyone in her community reach a point where they can use their new skills to provide for themselves – allowing her to move on to help others in need. DM/MC

This is part of a series featuring women making meaningful contributions in their communities, appearing in Maverick Citizen during the week. You can read the other articles here and here.

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