Under the wings of a Helderberg angel

Louie van Rooyen, right, with Sammy Louw of MHELP in Macassar, where she has been making a difference for almost 18 years.

Why is it that some people seem to have an inbuilt desire to help others? Is it nature or nurture?

In this time of pandemic, we hear of so many people and organisations that move mountains in order to help those who are hungry, those who are cold, those who have lost their livelihoods, but there are many others who silently just get on with it, preferring to hide their light under the proverbial bushel.

Until, that is, somebody who sees their indefatigable efforts, takes the trouble to accord them the recognition they deserve, and this is often how these stories of selfless service to the community, find their way onto our pages.

Somerset West resident, Annemarie Meyer, contacted Bolander to tell us about her friend and near neighbour, Louie van Rooyen, who has spent most of her adult life rendering service to the community, in both her professional and private capacities.

“Since the lockdown, Louie has been extremely busy, providing food and warm clothing for those people in need, especially Nomzamo and the other settlements where people are cold and hungry, even as far as Sutherland, in the icy cold weather.

“She has inspired her neighbour to knit 48 jerseys, and her elderly mother also knitted 15 jerseys. She herself knitted numerous items, like beanies and scarves.

“She has cooked pots of stew and lots of other food to fill empty tummies,” Ms Meyer told Bolander.

“She is rather reluctant to broadcast her activities, but I think our community should know about this Mother Theresa in our midst.”

Rather than “cold call” Ms Van Rooyen, Bolander asked Ms Meyer to “run interference”, which turned out to be a good thing, because it took some persuading for Ms Van Rooyen to agree to talk to Bolander.

“I feel like a bit of a fraud,” Ms Van Rooyen admitted during the conversation, “because all I do is collect all these things and get them to the people who need them.”

But the facts belie that notion. “I’ve been helping at Macassar Help Empower Local People (MHELP) for almost 18 years, an on Tuesdays I used to look after the little children as well,” Ms Van Rooyen said.

MHELP provides food and spiritual support to the elderly, the infirm, and children at risk in the Macassar community.

Between 250 and 300 people get support, three days a week from MHELP.

“With the pandemic, I can’t go there to help anymore, but my husband Johan and I still contribute soup ingredients every week,” she said, adding that another of her MHELP projects provides worm clothing to school children in Macassar in winter.

“My friends and, I between us, knit the jerseys and make the pants which are distributed to the children.”

But with the pandemic biting, the need has grown ever greater.

“My neighbour, Eileen von Imhoff, has knitted 48 jerseys, and my mom, Martie Cloete, who is 92, knitted 15 jerseys,” she said, and it is this ethic of service, still alive in her mom, who lives in Grahamstown, that must have inspired Ms Van Rooyen.

“I was brought up in the Eastern Cape, and in our home we were taught from a young age to take care of the poor.

“We grew up like that, and to this day, the whole family still helps the poor. When I retired from the police, I started helping at the NG Church Helderberg Service Centre, and it was there that I met up with people who connected me with MHELP,” she said.

To this day, Ms Van Rooyen collects all manner of things – clothes, toiletries, cosmetics and so forth – which are made into Christmas hampers for distribution to the grandparents in Macassar.

“Many of the grandmothers have a number of dependents in their homes, and I believe that they have made a major contribution to the economy over the years, with many of them having started working as young as 13 years old.”

But Ms Van Rooyen’s efforts have extended beyond the Helderberg. A call for assistance from bitterly cold Sutherland resulted in an immediate response.

“We’ve accumulated so many warm clothes, that we were able to send six bags to Sutherland for distribution to the elderly,” she said.

Anybody who would like to contribute to Ms Van Rooyen’s relief efforts for the poor, can contact her on 083 735 7609.