Ivy Konisi, or Mama Ivy, grew up in the rural Eastern Cape under her grandmother’s care after being orphaned at an early age. From a young age she showed huge tenacity in overcoming circumstances to many others would accept as their fate. But not Mama Ivy. In 1986, Ivy moved to Cape Town where she built herself a shack in Khayelitsha for her and her young son. Again, her spirit of resilience shone through as Mama Ivy found work and made a home for herself, son and soon to be daughter.
In the late 1990s, Ivy’s grandmother called her to the Eastern Cape to receive her dying blessing. With much anticipation, Ivy made the long journey to receive her blessing. After all the build-up, she was disappointed to hear her blessing was to take care of an orphan like herself! For the next four years, this promise remained merely a consenting headshake with no intention to be honoured as Mama simply wanted to take care of her own children.
But in 2000, Ivy gave her life to Jesus and in so doing, was reminded of the promise she made to her grandmother. Slowly the desire grow to take care of one orphan especially as she became increasingly aware of the number of children in her community who were being neglected and abandoned due to poverty, illness or the abuse of substances. In 2002, while running a soup kitchen for the children in her community, Ivy was asked by a dying mother to take car of her 3 month old son. Sure that this was the child, Mama Ivy was surprised to learn that the very sick lady had told other sick and dying mothers about Mama Ivy, who would take care of their children. As a result, some children were left at Mama Ivy’s doorstep during the night and others were brought in by family members but before she knew it, Mama Ivy was caring for 19 young children in her 2 bedroom shack.
After a little while, they moved into an old house in Eerste Rive before moving into an old crèche in Elsies River. Although not ideal for a residential home, Mama Ivy and the children made the most of their space that they called home. It was during this time that Heather Lane got to know the children. Her church at the time used to do Christmas boxes for the children and instead of just doing boxes, Heather felt it important to come and meet the children. Despite having worked with other organisations, she very quickly realised that Linawo was a place that God was calling her in for the long-haul.
When Linawo first began, Ivy worked under an umbrella organisation. During 2008, the management of this organisation became problematic and put Linawo at risk especially as the director would take donations allocated to the children for other purposes. This culminated in us evacuating our home at 10pm on a Friday night in 2009. We had to start all over again – back in Mama Ivy’s personal home, which by now was a basic skeleton of a house. Although less than ideal for 15 children and 4 caregivers, the team was resilient and the children continue to grow and learn.
After a turbulent yet exciting journey, in 2010 we were blessed with a home of our own thanks to the help of a donor who provided us with an interest-free loan. On the 10th of July 2010, Linawo made its final move into our own home. What a joy and blessing it’s been to live in a place that we can truly call home.
To create a family structure for abandoned, neglected and orphaned children so that they can be nurtured into their full potential as independent adults who make a valuable contribution to their community.
Meet the team
Ivy Konisi – Founder & Programme Manager
Ivy Konisi grew up in the Eastern Cape and was herself an orphan. As the youngest of five children, Ivy was raised for by her grandmother who was a Christian and did not believe in traditional Xhosa customs, including the custom that girls should not be educated but rather married off as soon as possible. Ivy’s grandmother did what she could to provide Ivy with an education and when funds ran out, Ivy’s determination (and a bit of defiance), secured her a scholarship to enable her to complete her high school education. After further decisions that released Ivy from becoming the 3rd wife of a neighbouring tribe’s king, Ivy moved to Cape Town. Here she managed to secure a job and provide for her two young children. Her grandmother’s dying blessing over her life was to take care of orphans like herself. 16 years later Ivy started fulfilling her grandmother’s blessing.
Ivy’s favourite childhood memory
I made a small clay house next to my grannies rondavel (round, mud house), which was my doll’s house. I then made mielie (corn) cob dolls using the cobs as the body of my doll and I dressed them in any scraps of material that I could find. I even made a mother and baby doll and would play with them inside their house for hours at a time. Some days, I would even steal some of my Ouma’s eggs and cook them for my doll family.
Heather Lane – Director
As a born and bred Capetonian, Heather has a passion for Cape Town and its people. After school, Heather went on to qualify as an Occupational Therapist and later obtained a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy. She has previously worked in the NGO sector working with youth at risk as well with international volunteer groups. This combined experience has created a good foundation for her work at Linawo. Heather started by volunteering her time and coordinating groups of volunteers before becoming a Member of our Board. At the end of 2009, Heather started as Director of Linawo and will be using her Occupational Therapy qualifications with the children and caregivers alike.
Heather’s favourite childhood memory
I used to love climbing the big fig tree in my family’s garden with my brother and cousin. We each had our branches, which became our imaginary bicycle, horse and car and we had many races and adventures in those branches. When we weren’t racing around on our imaginary modes of transport, we were collecting rose beetles that landed on the ripened figs. We’d collect a bucket-full and soak them in hot, soapy water – one way to kill them.
Nobuntu – Senior Foster Mother
Nobuntu grew up in Tsolo in the Eastern Cape with her parents and four sisters. As the second born with no brothers, she grew up like a boy – taking care of her father’s goats and cattle. She loved her late father very much and was his favourite. While in high school, her life was changed when she became a Christian. She later did training in working with abused children and was involved with various projects in the Tsolo area. Nobuntu has two grown sons. She joined our Linawo team in October 2010 and has since become our senior foster mother.
Nobuntu’s favourite childhood memory
I used to love playing with my doll, which was a maize cob dressed in fabric. I called her Nana and spent hours playing in the mud house that I made her.
Pam Berry – Homeschool Teacher
Pam is a wife, daughter, sister, mother of three, teacher of nine and friend to many! She grew up in Mafikeng, just on the Botswana border and moved to Cape Town at the end of 1999. Pam graduated as a teacher in 2004 and taught for one year at Kirstenhof Primary School before joining the children’s ministry team of her church, where she served for 7 years. Pam’s role at the church came to an end early 2012, which is when she joined the Linawo team. She says that back then she could not have imagined the incredible adventure that she was about to go on! More than helping to build a solid educational foundation for the boys, Pam loves to get to explore the Bible daily together, allow their characters to be refined, learn what it means to love unconditionally, laugh underneath her strict ‘Teacher Pam face’, hear about the boys’ struggles, joys and dreams and explore ways to make these dreams realities. So although her title is ‘Teacher Pam’ she feels like she is part of the family…more like ‘Sisi Pam’.
Teacher Pam’s favourite childhood memory
My favourite childhood memory is the many many holidays we went on to our local dam, where there was NOTHING! We had to take everything from food to spades for…you know what! Somehow amidst the simplicity and hard work of setting up camp, we were able to discover new things about each other that the chaos of life doesn’t expose. Uninterrupted time as a family was priceless!
Veronica Lekhanya – Teacher’s Assistant
Vera was born in the Eastern Cape but moved to Cape Town when she was very young so considers herself truly Capetonian. Vera has been involved with Linawo for a number of years as one of her cousins lives with us. Vera has always been willing to serve wherever needed so we eventually asked her to join our team as a foster mother. But with a young son, we all agreed that she needed to live with him but not before we discovered Vera’s amazing gift of teaching. As a result, since January 2013, Vera has been our teacher’s assistant for our home school boys, while furthering her studies to become a teacher. The greatest gift is seeing her joy in this position!
Teacher V’s favourite childhood memory
I loved living with my mom, three sisters and 4 cousins. We called our home the Aquafresh House because we did it all in one – we cooked, bathed, slept and ate in our one room! It was really memorable and we were really happy!
Board of directors
Our team of committed Board Members who see to the governance of Linawo.
Celia Dawson: Chairperson
Peter Waller: Treasurer
Marisja Kocznur: Secretary
Meaka Biggs: Member
Oné Dintwe: Member
Ivy Konisi: Member
Heather Lane: Member
Gary Mai: Member
Zingiwe Mramba: Member