Rosie is a Goddess

This is Rosie. To me and to her community she is an angel, a savior, and a goddess. She lives in Khayelitsha, a “township” in Cape Town, South Africa. Khayelitsha is one of the legacy holdovers from the apartheid-era Group Areas Act, the law that required blacks to have special permission to travel within the country. It was established when male laborers were allowed to migrate to Johannesburg and Cape Town for work and townships, like Khayelitsha, were established to house them. Soweto, in Johannesburg, with 1.3 million residents is probably the most infamous of these slums, but Khayelitsha is the largest one in Cape Town and home to roughly 500,000. With the end of the pass laws and apartheid, women began coming to the townships, families were established, and children raised there.

In 2001, Rosie decided to do something for the poorest of the poor kids in her township. She enlisted the help of friends and neighbors who brought her food supplies like cereal and potatoes so she could feed the kids. She’s famous in Cape Town now. Everybody knows Rosie and the tiny room she calls Rosie’s Diner. Every day she feeds 185 kids breakfast before they go to school and dinner when they come home. It’s simple fare – porridge for breakfast and beans, potatoes or rice for dinner, but these abandoned children, mostly AIDS orphans, get the basic nutrition they need to carry on at Rosie’s Diner.

I met Rosie through Alan Petersen, a local guide who helps with Rosie’s operation. Alan had us take sacks of potatoes and onions when we stopped by to see her. Alan has also organized a group of independent guides to help Rosie keep things going. Her reputation has spread and a couple of years ago Habitat for Humanity built a house for her in the township. She, like many of the women, is a single Mom and the house is really her dining room. Her old house burned down a few years ago and she is badly scarred from the fire, but she never stopped smiling and saying thank you the whole time we were with her.

Rosie and her helpers cook in a tiny 6’x 6′ kitchen off to the side of the house. It smelled great when we were there – onion and potatoes cooking in huge stainless pots. CNN has a project called CNN Heroes to celebrate and reward selfless individuals who are making a difference in their communities. Rosie seems like a perfect example of a CNN Hero and I’m going to do what I can to nominate her in the next round of heroes. She truly deserves the award.

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