Welcom to Mirriam House
In the heart of Mbekweni, a township on the outskirts of Paarl, lives quite an extraordinary family. It is here where one mother and her twenty children optimize the core value of being a family: unconditional love.
Mirriam Toni, a single Xhosa woman, has unselfishly taken it upon herself to look after orphaned and abandoned children since 1991. In doing so she has not only taken in children from parents who do not have the means to provide for them, but she has also taken in children who've been abused, abandoned and in some cases left for dead on the street.
She serves them on a daily basis proving food, shelter, clothes, schooling and love. She is currently the legal guardian of these children and the house they live in has been registered as a safety house in the community.
The Grape Community was introduced to Mirriam through a volunteer who had been involved with her and the children from since a few years before. The heart of the project and the needs it was fulfilling matched The Grape Community's mandate 100% and we got wholeheartedly involved.
Mirriam along with the help of her sister, Gina, are currently in charge of the house and responsible for the children. They share a common passion to raise them in a manner that teaches self sustainability by assisting with skills development, mandatory schooling, motivating them to participate in sports and harvesting a responsibility for each other.
There are currently one baby, five toddlers, twelve children and two adolescents that live in the shack. The baby is looked after by his mother who also resides in the shack and assists Mirriam and Gina with the other children. The two adolescents have also been put in charge of certain chores in and around the house.
Mirriam is a prominent figure in the community as they respect the work that she does with the children and support her in which ever way they can.
A day in the Mirriam House
The day starts at 05h30 every morning with the washing up of the school children. They will then get their breakfast while Gina attends to them with the necessary medication while lunch boxes are prepared. Then it's off the school.
Now it's the little ones who are bathed and attended to. Some have joined a crèche this year and will now be taken there, while the others are looked after at home. Between keeping an eye on the toddlers and providing a snack at 10h00, the rest of the morning will typically be dedicated to washing, preparing food for lunch, buying groceries and attending to meetings with schools, social workers and others.
At 13h00 it is lunchtime for the little ones and at 15h00 the rest will have theirs. The afternoon is then divided into homework and playing. At 18h00 it is time for bathing, dinner and then off to bed for the toddlers. The rest of the house sit down together for dinner at 20h00 after which the school children and adolescents goes to bed.
Mirriam and Gina will do the last of the cleaning up and turn to bed themselves, knowing that tomorrow will be another full day.
Building a house for The House
The Grape Community along with our various other sponsors involved, have had the dream of building a formal structure for the family on the current plot in Mbekweni. The living conditions of the family were very poor and the previous structure was battling to provide sufficient space for the ever present need. The shack that used to house them was a 90m2 area with only one bathroom and three bedrooms.
After the tragic incident of the fire in July 2011, all the sponsors enabled The Grape Community to start building a proper house for the family. The family is now able to enjoy their 4 bedroom house plus an extra loft area for more space.
Our dream was to build a structure that will grant each child their own bed, room in which to study and a sheltered playground for the younger children. We are thankful to all sponsors who have made this dream possible.