Tebogo Malele is not only offering affordable medical help to the poor, but she has also become a mother to many male street children in Kempton Park.
We caught up with Tebogo to discuss the incredible work she does in her neighbourhood and around the country.
What are the five words that describe Tebogo Malele best?
Innovative, courageous, passionate, ambitious, and focused.
You have a charity organisation called ‘Save The Seed’. How did that initiative come about?
As a mother myself, I realised that every child is a seed that has potential to achieve something extraordinary. When I saw the young homeless boys in the streets of Kempton Park, I told myself that they too need someone who will nurture them, so they too have a chance to be great. This was not an effort on my own, but it was through working with Mbongeni Mahlangu, who interacted with these boys on a daily basis.
You chose to focus on helping homeless boys. Boys are often overlooked. What made you choose to focus on boys, especially as a woman?
In our home, my husband always points out instances where the boy child has always not been prepared or empowered enough as much as the girl child is but yet the responsibility and pressure is placed on boys. I have been sensitised through those talks and seeing such young boys as young as 12 years on the street, my motherly instincts took over.
Dealing with street kids can’t be easy. What are some of the challenges that come with running such an initiative?
Funding has always been a problem – and it still is. A home where these young boys could sleep and be off the street has always been a priority. Mentors and advisers. Boys need rehab as most of them kept themselves high from glue in order to cope. Essentials like toiletries and clothes. The initiative was under our church Temple of Grace which often was our financial support and we could only do according to how much the church could contribute.
What are some of the misconceptions society has about homeless boys?
That they don’t need love like you and me. People are scared of them because they think the boys will hurt them. Another misconception people have is that the boys want to be on the streets and they don’t want to go back home.
What has been the highlight of this initiative for you – a story that stood out from the rest?
One of the boys was very sick and we helped him go back home as he needed care and one day when I was in a concert he came with his family to greet and it was such a precious moment to see how he had grown and how grateful his family was.
You also run a company that offers renal replacement therapies. How did that business come about?
I am a clinical technologist who specialises in Nephrology (Kidneys). For over 10 years I worked in some of the major companies and learnt the ropes in most of the different specialities in the treatment of renal diseases. My problem has always been seeing clinics in the towns and cities full of patients from the rural and smaller towns with treatment no being taken to them was always a pain for me. These patients have to get treatment three times per week and each treatment lasts four hours, so adding long travelling distances affected their quality of life and their ability to work, which affected their social statuses and their ability to fulfil their duties as breadwinners. I decided to fill in the gap. My company names are Nephromed Kidney Centre and West Rand Dialysis. The first clinic was opened on 1 September 2014.
How hard was it starting such a business?
As a young disadvantaged black woman, starting such a business needed huge capitals, which at the time was a challenge. I had to go into a partnership which now I have grown in the business and have since established seven clinics across the country. I had to learn how business works as I was experienced in only the clinical side of the job. In all this, God has been my strength and anchor throughout all this journey.
How do you balance family, business, and running a charity?
It’s hard to strike the balance but the support from my husband, parents, family – not forgetting the whole company’s staff, has been amazing. The company is growing daily with over 30 healthcare workers and it has been a team effort, and everyone deserves a pat on the back. My three children have supported me in the most special way which has encouraged me to be better.
What are your future plans?
I plan to empower the rural community through education and sharing skills. I also plan to build the business to become an empire.