Through her nursing work with vulnerable and developmentally challenged children in St Mary’s Hospital, Sr Marco Gneis developed the idea of creating a centre where women and their children could be assisted.

In 1988, Jabulani Self-Help Centre started as a humble project with the help of the Missionaries of Mariannhill, serving the disadvantaged women and children in the area.

Its aim was and still is to provide a place where these often forgotten members of the society can feel safe and welcomed, while relearning to value life and to help themselves in a reality characterized by poverty, unemployment and disempowerment.

By 1995 and until today the Centre is known as catering for around 120 women of the surrounding area who because of lack of training were unable to find a job and therefore to raise money for basics. Once they have become member of the so-called Jabulani Family they are invited to pursue creative tasks such as weaving, sewing, baking, woodworking or candle making. They receive meals, clothing, financial support as well as assistance in building safer, solid houses. Equally, several boys and young men receive assistance. They live at Jabulani while attending local schools and completing training courses meant to enable them to take responsibility for their life. More than 250 children come daily for a feeding scheme and homework assistance. Their educational needs are honoured as Jabulani pays for their schooling and related expenses. A Creche for the small children and a pre-school for the children of the women working at Jabulani also exist. Throughout the year however Jabulani is also open to other members of the immediate community with concrete needs. Hence, food parcels and other assistance is extended often on a daily basis to many more people struck by poverty.

Over recent years, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has started to take its toll also among the women and children at the Centre. Those infected have been given medical as well as counseling support while struggling with illness. Here the Centre has from the beginning tried to work together with St Mary’s Hospital. When all medical interventions do not help, the family of Jabulani is available to help to the dying. The typical stigma does not apply and bereavement, trauma and loss are carried together.

Jabulani continues to do its work largely with the generosity of overseas benefactors. It is a Non-Governmental Organisation with a Board assisting Sr Marco and her team in their efforts to make a difference in the lives of many women and children.

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