A GUIDING HAND
Raised by visually impaired parents, Noxolo Magengenene has never viewed herself as less loved or cared for. While she admits that her life is different, her parents have taught her a great lesson in overcoming impediments.
Raised in the Cape Town township of Nyanga, Noxolo is the only child to two loving parents. Hers is an average township family; the only thing that stands out is that both parents are blind.
“My parents lost their sight at different times in their lives: my mother’s blindness was caused by diabetes when I was five, and my dad went blind when I was 12, caused by an accident at his work.”
Noxolo says her earliest memory of her mother’s blindness was when she was six years old, and she told her father that she would go with her mom to the clinic.
“My dad always took my mom to the clinic and he was always exhausted between work and taking care of her, so I wanted to give him a break. I told him that this time I would go with her. We travelled to the clinic with a taxi;, my mom knew the way so it wasn’t that bad. When we got to the clinic the nurses told me that my mother needed to take insulin for her health and that I must help her because my dad was too scared to do it. She needed to take it every day between 6 and 7pm. The nurse at the clinic showed me how to inject my mom and how to check her sugar levels.”
“I didn’t get nervous; to me it was exciting. I would imagine that I was a doctor or a nurse. The nurses also motivated me and said that I must keep my mom safe and pray to God to help her.”
For the following years, assisting her mom with medication became Noxolo’s new norm. Noxolo did not mind and she always felt inspired by her mom’s determination.
“My mom is a real inspiration; she did not let her blindness keep her from experiencing life. She joined the Light & Healing Centre in Tokai, where she was trained as a masseuse and where she currently works.”
A few years passed until Noxolo and her family faced another challenge, when her father had an accident at work that left him blind too.
“My dad was working in a wood factory, and a nail that was in chemicals shot into his eye and it became infected. I heard my parents speaking about the accident, my mom told my dad that the doctor told him that if doesn’t have laser surgery to remove what was on his eye then he would go blind.”
Unfortunately, Noxolo’s father did not have the surgery, as he was too scared of what was happening to him.. Over time he lost sight in both eyes.
Noxolo says that things her father would do around the house now became her responsibility and that home life became challenging.
At 12 years old, Noxolo became the only sighted person in her family and assumed the parental position.
“We live in a one-room house with one bathtub, so to get everyone ready on time and for me to get to school; I have to wake up at 4 am. The first person to wash is my mom; I need to help her when she gets up so that she doesn’t hurt herself. I then pack a lunch box for my mom and iron her clothes. She gets collected every morning by transport that shuttles people with disabilities to her job as a masseuse. After I take care of my dad, he remains in the house because he does not work.”
“After getting everything ready, I pack my bag and leave for school. I need to walk for about 30 minutes as we don’t have much money so taking a taxi is not an option. When I get to school, sometimes I can’t concentrate because I am thinking about my situation at home. I also think of my mom because there are times when she gets really sick because her sugar is too high.”
“When I go back home, I take care of the house and prepare food for all of us. Only when I have finished all my responsibilities can I then start with my homework. Sometimes I am so tired that I just go to bed.”
“It feels good being able to help my parents, but sometimes I get tired, especially on nights when my mom needs me more. We have an outside toilet, so if my mom or dad need to use it they wake me up so that I can walk with them. It doesn’t feel that safe because there are thieves in the area.”
“I miss school sometimes because I need to accompany my parents or go to the clinic or to get their grants. We survive thanks to my mom’s work and the government assistance we receive.”
Noxolo says that many people take pity on her family because of their situation, but that she feels a great pride for her parents.
“They have overcome many challenges in their lives. Although my father does not work, he is never just sitting around but always tries to be busy doing things. My mother is working and making a difference because she is showing people that having a disability doesn’t mean that you can’t have an active life.”
“Neither of them were born blind and they have had to adapt to a world that has gone dark, and I guess I also needed to adapt to my new circumstances.”
Although Noxolo says that her family’s life would dramatically change if they had better housing, they always believed in making the best of their situation.
“I am a happy person who enjoys using art during the few occasions I feel down, it helps me to overcome my negative thoughts. I enjoy singing and writing poems; I’ve written poems about my life and it really assists me. It makes me feel brave. I recently performed one of my poems at school and it felt good to finally be seen!”
Despite her life situation, Noxolo is managing school, “I have learnt so much about diabetes, health and how to take care of people. My life experience with my parents has given me a good idea of what I want to do after high school. I definitely want to study a degree in the field of human health.”
To conclude, Noxolo says, “I am convinced that in the darkest moments of your life you can still find light. The light represents the lessons you learn from not giving up and taking control of the situation you are in. My life and my parents’ lives have taught me this.”
Noxolo is a Leaders’ Quest participant