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Centre breathe life into the elderly

12 Apr 2022

A chat with a couple of pensioners queuing for their old age pension at a Maun post office back in 2008 fanned the flames that one Ms Beauty Bogwasi had hitherto been trying to evade dealing with.

The impromptu interviews pulled at the heartstrings of the Bobonong native, laying bare the myriad struggles that, like a massive brick wall, stood stoically between the elderly and their enjoyment of the dusk of their lives.

Sifting through the many challenges that she had been made aware of; boredom due to the lack of any means of leisure, starvation and the general deprivation of certain key necessities of life, as well as living in unsanitary conditions emerged top in the list of concerns needing urgent attention.

While she immediately resolved to kick into motion plans to establish a care centre to tend to the needs of this section of society, she upon calculating how winding the road ahead would be, decided to start little; that being an opportunity to test the waters regarding the feasibility of her plans.

A Ministry of Education employee by then, Ms Bogwasi would use her free time to prepare and deliver freshly-cooked meals to the five elderly people she had identified, and would also pay them visits during which she would clean for them as well as do their laundry.

A year later in 2009, she introduced Christmas Day lunches to which scores of the elderly turned up over the succeeding years, with her maiden event have set the tone by amassing a total of 150 attendees.

Seeing the need for her services grow steadily, Ms Bogwasi resigned from her job to dedicate more time to serving the elderly.

However, it was only until two years later that she coincidentally got her major break when she met representatives of Canada-based charity organisation Lamb International while attending a summit in South Africa.

After building rapport with the organisation over the course of the next couple of years, her relationship with it birthed some wildly unexpected results as Lamb International offered to fund the construction of Ms Bogwasi’s centre.

That marked the coming to life of Polokong Elderly Care Centre, a project in which Lamb International has to date expended funding to the tune of P500 000 which went into the construction of the facility’s existing building and another whose construction is still ongoing.

“They did not give us money but instead they paid for every stage of construction and spent an estimated P200 000 on the building that were are using now.

Before COVID-19 struck, they had been coming here periodically to monitor progress,” she explained. Having noticed that some clients have no shelter to retire to after a day at Polokong, Ms Bogwasi solicited for further assistance from Lamb International, who then offered to pay for a block of ensuite rooms that would house the elderly with dire need for shelter.

In 2018 the facility opened its doors, giving Ms Bogwasi an opportunity to better coordinate the services she was offering to her clients.

Today, with the centre boasting of a total of 145 clients under its wings, its founder can only look back with a sense of pride, especially given the numerous challenges that she has had to wade through.

While she still yearns for more support, she is happy with that rendered by her partners and sponsors, among whom she cites Lamb International; Mr Pierre Sharp, the architect who donated drawings for the buildings; Small Village Botswana, a safari company that donated a minibus; Bubbles Laundry that provides laundry services at no cost to the centre; and Okavango Kopano

Mokoro Community Trust, as well as Sedie Hotel, both of whom assist with the transportation of clients to and from the centre. “Most of our support comes from the safari industry.

They transport clients to and from the centre or fuel our vehicle for us to pick clients if for whenever reason they cannot do that themselves,” she said.

The lack of funds to cover the centre’s operational costs continues to be a persistent problem especially since the current partners only provide their support in kind.

Her greatest concern however is the absence of government policy on the elderly, the lack of which she feels is an impediment to efforts to enhance the care of the older members of the population.

Ms Peggy Keiphetlhetswe, a volunteer at Polokong is responsible for the general care of clients, bathing those who cannot do so on their own, leading them in outdoor activities such as exercising and gardening as well as taking those needing medical services to the clinic.

Another volunteer Ms Ponalo Nkanyezi coordinates craftwork in the centre, and also guides clients as they play different games. The clients arrive at the centre at 10 in the morning and are dropped off at home at 4pm.

A client, 62 year-old Ms Leatile Daniel is happy with the impact that the centre has had in her life. Having recently joined the centre at the beginning of the year, Ms Daniel cannot imagine a life outside of Polokong. “Polokong e nkitshitse mo mathateng.

Ke ne ke le motho wa dino e re ke di jele a bo ke sena kutlwisiso,” she said, recounting how her life of alcoholism was spiralling out of control.ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Keonee Kealeboga

Location : MAUN

Event : interview

Date : 12 Apr 2022